Solitary snipe

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The solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) belongs to the family of sandpipers, curlews and snipes, Scolopacidae.

The solitary snipe species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Myanmar, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. These snipe species produce "drumming" sound as part of their courtship display flights. There are two recognized subspecies of these snipes.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Solitary Snipe Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Solitary snipe - Overview

  • Scientific name: Gallinago solitaria
  • Species author: Hodgson, 1831
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Gallinago solitaria Hodgson, 1831
  • Family: Scolopacidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Solitary snipe, Chinese: 孤沙锥, French: Bécassine solitaire, German: Einsiedlerbekassine, Spanish: Agachadiza solitaria, Russian: Горный дупель, Japanese: アオシギ
  • Other names: Solitary Snipe
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Myanmar, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, invertebrates, snails, worms, beetles, larvae, flies
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The two recognized subspecies of the solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) are: Gallinago solitaria solitaria Hodgson, 1831 and Gallinago solitaria japonica (Bonaparte, 1856).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) is a large, bulky snipe, measuring 28 to 32 cm in length and weighing 125 to 225 grams. The wingspan is 50 to 55 cm.

The upperparts of these snipe species are reddish brown and barred dark brown. The feathers on the mantle and upper scapular region are edged whitish and giving "V" like appearance. The underparts are paler and have extensive barring.

The snipe face and the sides of the neck are speckled grayish-brownish white. A dark brown line from the base of the bill passes through the eyes, extending a little beyond the eyes. There is a dark bar on the cheek.

The tail is slightly long, giving an elongated appearance to the bird. The breast is gingery brown and mottled. The juvenile solitary snipe appear similar to the adults. The solitary snipe subspecies G. s. japonica is more reddish on the upperparts and has longer bill when compared to the nominate subspecies.

The bill is long, pale brownish yellow at the base and blackish at the distal end. The feet short and are greenish yellow. The feet do not extend beyond the tail in flight. There irises are brown. The displaying snipe male call is a loud "chok-a-chok-a" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Solitary snipe - Gallinago solitaria
Birds of India - Image of Solitary snipe - Gallinago solitaria

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The solitary snipe species are distributed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

In India, these solitary snipe species are distributed in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, northern West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of solitary snipe in Nepal are, Paradise Valley mountain plateau, Sagarmatha National Park, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Makalu Barun National Park, Khaptad National Park and Langtang National Park.

The IBA of solitary snipe in Russia are, Shapshal ridge, Kurkure mountain, Plateau Ukok, Kuznetsky Alatau Zapovednik and Natural reserve Kuznetskij Alatau. The IBA of these snipe species in Tajikistan are, Aktash massif, Kulikalon Lakes and Kattasay and Daganasay Reservoirs.

Ecosystem and habitat

These solitary snipe species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 1500 to 5000 meters. The artificial ecosystems of these solitary snipe species include seasonally flooded agricultural land.

The natural ecosystems of these solitary snipe species include wetlands like upper shrub forests, freshwater lakes, marshes, pools, ponds, swamps, peatlands, rivers, streams and creeks, temperate grasslands, mountain bogs and river valleys.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these solitary snipe species is mostly worms. Insects, small molluscs, worms, larvae, beetles, seed and plant material are their primary food. They probe with their long bill into mud for worms and insects. These solitary snipe species bob their head and body while feeding.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these solitary snipe species is mainly in May and June in most of the breeding ranges, located at the high mountain ranges of South and East Siberia, Altai mountains and Sayan Mountains. Nesting sites are located in mountain bogs and river valleys above the treeline at about 2,400 to 5000 meters.

Leks of about ten males are formed and display flights start at dusk which may go on until the early morning. The nests are found in small concealed depressions between mossy mounds, stones, low bushes and shrubs. The solitary snipe clutch typically contains four eggs.

The incubation is probably done by the solitary snipe female and the hatching time is not known. It may take a month or more to hatch considering the prevailing temperatures. The chicks may follow the parents.

Migration and movement patterns

The solitary snipe species are partially migrant birds.

The northern populations (South and East Siberia, Altai mountains, Sayan Mountains) of solitary snipe species migrate southwards for wintering. They move to northeast Iran, Pakistan, northern India, southern China and Japan for wintering. The birds in higher altitudes may move to lower altitudes in winter.

The solitary snipe populations in rest of the range are resident birds. Post breeding, the solitary snipe juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) is estimated to be 11,000 to 110,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these snipe species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be uncommon to rare. The generation length is 4.8 years. Its distribution size is about 10,300,000

The solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion, or under the population size criterion. The ongoing habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these snipe species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the snipe species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the solitary snipe (Gallinago solitaria).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Gallinago solitaria
Species:G. solitaria
Binomial name:Gallinago solitaria
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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Solitary snipe image source:
Image author: Henrik Grönvold | License: Public domain
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