Swinhoe's snipe

   ›      ›   Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala

The Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala) belongs to the family of sandpipers, curlews and snipes, Scolopacidae.

The Swinhoe's snipe species are distributed in India, parts of southeast Asia, northern Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and south and east China. These snipe species have a long slender bill and cryptic plumage. These snipes are monotypic species.

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

Swinhoe's snipe - Overview

  • Scientific name: Gallinago megala
  • Species author: Swinhoe, 1861
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Gallinago megala Swinhoe, 1861
  • Family: Scolopacidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Swinhoe's snipe, Chinese: 大沙锥, French: Bécassine de Swinhoe, German: Waldbekassine, Spanish: Agachadiza del Baikal, Russian: Лесной дупель, Japanese: チュウジシギ, Indonesian: Berkik Rawa
  • Other names: forest snipe, Chinese snipe, Marsh Snipe
  • Distribution: Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, south and east China, parts of India, parts of southeast Asia, northern Australia
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, insect larvae, worms, molluscs, seeds
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala) is a medium-sized snipe, measuring 27 to 30 cm in length and weighing 80 to 160 grams. The wingspan is 40 to 50 cm.

The Swinhoe's snipes appear very similar to Latham's and pin-tailed snipes in the field. They have cryptically patterned black, brown, buff and white plumage.

The head is large and squarish. The brown upperparts have fine black and white streaks. There are pale buff longitudinal stripes from mantle to rump. The lores are broad and dark brown.

The wings are long and pointed. Unlike Latham's snipe, the primaries extend well beyond the tertials. The underparts are whitish with blackish brown bars on the flank.

The tail has 20-22 feathers, a distinguishing characteristic. The Latham's has only 14-18 tail feathers. The tail projects up to or beyond tertials tips. The outer five tail feathers are mostly black with white edges and tips. The tail has a broad rufous subterminal band.

The bill is larger and longer than the similar snipes. The bill is brownish gray with darker tip. The irises are dark brown. The legs are grayish yellow and in flight extend just beyond the tail. Their call is a short coarse shrek "squack" sound when flushed.
Indian birds - Picture of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala
1.Birds of India - Image of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala by 孫鋒 林

Birds of India - Photo of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala
2.Indian birds - Picture of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala by DmitrySA

Indian birds - Image of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala
3.Birds of India - Photo of Swinhoe's snipe - Gallinago megala eggs by DmitrySA

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The Swinhoe's snipe species are distributed in India, parts of southeast Asia, northern Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and south and east China.

The Swinhoe's snipe species breeding grounds are distributed in northeast Kazakhstan, southern central Russia, Russian territory near Sea of Japan and central and north Mongolia.

The wintering populations of Swinhoe's snipe species are distributed in China (Shandong, Guangxi, Fujian, Hainan and Hong Kong), India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor-Leste, New Guinea, Guam (USA), Papua New Guinea and north Australia.

In India, these Swinhoe's snipe species are distributed in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these Swinhoe's snipe species in Kazakhstan is Paradise Valley mountain plateau.

The IBA of these snipes in Russia are Yel'tsovskaya, Ust'-Ozerninskiye bogs, Shapshal ridge, Taezhno-Mikhaylovsky, Pershinsko-Manatkinsky area, Kurkure mountain, Bystroistokskaya, Baturino-Simansky area and Sayanski canyon of the Enisey river.

Ecosystem and habitat

These Swinhoe's snipe species have low forest dependence. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 100 meters.

The artificial ecosystems of these snipe species include flooded agricultural fields, rice paddy-fields, water storage reservoirs, wastewater treatment areas, sewage ponds and dry cultivated areas.

The natural ecosystems of these Swinhoe's snipe species include boreal forests, open deciduous or mixed deciduous forests, evergreen forests, clearings, woodland along river valleys, meadows, temperate grasslands, marshes, swamps, peatlands, river banks, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the Swinhoe's snipe consists mainly of earthworms. Worms, aquatic invertebrates, glow-worms, beetles, ants, grasshoppers, terrestrial molluscs and seeds are their primary food. They are known to feed on rapeseed and wheat in agricultural fields.

These Swinhoe's snipe species are crepuscular and nocturnal in their foraging activities. They feed by picking as well as probing the mud with their long bill.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The laying season of these Swinhoe's snipes in most of their breeding range is from May to July. These birds are monogamous and breed as solitary pairs. The male makes elaborate display flights and 'drumming'. The outer tail feathers are vibrated to make this sound.

The nesting sites include grassy areas near marshes and streams and open regions of forest with meadows. The nest is a bare ground scrape, placed on dry grounds with short grass, or on mounds in swamps and bogs or among bushes. The clutch may contain 3-4 pale green eggs with heavy dark brown mottling.

Migration and movement patterns

The Swinhoe's snipe species are strongly migratory birds.

These Swinhoe's snipe species breed in central and southern Siberia. Post breeding, they migrate to south and southeast Asia and north Australia. They return to their breeding grounds in April.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala) is estimated to number 25,000 to 100,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is not known.

Throughout its range this species is reported to be common to uncommon. The generation length is 4.8 years. Its distribution size is about 5,270,000 sq.km.

Habitat degradation and habitat loss are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these snipe species.

IUCN and CITES status

The Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala) 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 IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the 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 Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Gallinago megala
Species:G. megala
Binomial name:Gallinago megala
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The Swinhoe's snipe (Gallinago megala) is closely related to pin-tailed snipe (Gallinago stenura) and Latham's snipe (Gallinago hardwickii).
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1.Swinhoe's snipe photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/outdoor_birding/26610332324/ (cropped)
Photo author: 孫鋒 林 | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 7/14/17
2.Photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gallinago_megala.jpg (cropped)
Photo author: DmitrySA | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Photo source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gallinago_megala_nest.jpg (cropped)
Photo author: DmitrySA | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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