Great snipe

   ›      ›   Great snipe - Gallinago media

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

The great snipe species are distributed in Europe, western Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These snipe species are experiencing steep population decline and are listed as 'Near Threatened' by IUCN. These snipes are monotypic species.

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

Great snipe - Overview

  • Scientific name: Gallinago media
  • Species author: (Latham, 1787)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Scolopax Media Latham, 1787, Capella media (Latham, 1787), Gallinago major
  • Family: Scolopacidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Great snipe, Chinese: 斑腹沙锥, French: Bécassine double German: Doppelschnepfe Spanish: Agachadiza real, Russian: Дупель, Japanese: ヨーロッパジシギ, Arabic: الشنقب الكبير, الشنقب الكبير رهيز
  • Other names: Double Snipe, Greater Snipe
  • Distribution: Europe, western Asia, sub-Saharan Africa
  • Diet and feeding habits: earthworms, insects, molluscs
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The great snipe (Gallinago media) is a medium-sized, bulky, comparatively short-billed snipe, measuring 27 to 30 cm in length and weighing 140 to 260 grams. The wingspan is 45 to 50 cm.

The great snipes have long slender bill and cryptic plumage. The upperparts are mottled brown. They have many dark spots and small V-shaped stripes on the chest. The flanks and belly are heavily barred. The head and neck are heavily spotted with pale marks.

The wing coverts have white tips. The adult great snipes display brilliant white corners to their tails. The bill is brownish and the distal half is darker. The legs are dark gray. The irises are dark brown. They have a dark stripe passing through the eye.

The great snipe is exceptionally silent on migration and in winter. The call of these species is a deep "heert" or a low deep, faint "tswick" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Great snipe - Gallinago media
1.Birds of India - Image of Great snipe - Gallinago media by Thho46

Birds of India - Photo of Great snipe - Gallinago media
2.Indian birds - Picture of Great snipe - Gallinago media by Radovan Václav

Indian birds - Image of Gallinago media
3.Birds of India - Photo of Great snipe - Gallinago media by Radovan Václav

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The breeding populations of great snipe occur in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The great snipe species wintering populations are distributed in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Namibia.

Vagrant great snipes occur in Belgium, India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Luxembourg, Spain, United Kingdom, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Somalia and Seychelles.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these great snipe species in Lithuania are, Cepkeliai Strict Nature Reserve, Flooded meadows near Sausgalviai settlement, Nemunas delta regional Park and Svyla River valley.

The IBA of great snipe in Norway are Øvre Forra, Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella, Dovrefjell, Nordre Øyeren & Sørumsneset and Hardangervidda. The IBA in Latvia are Berzpils bogs, Ziemelgauja, Burga meadows, Vidusburtnieks, Dviete flood-plain, Kuja and Ruja flood-plain.

The IBA great snipe in Norway are Blåfjella-Skjækerfjella, Øvre Forra, Dovrefjell, Nordre Øyeren & Sørumsneset and Hardangervidda. The IBA in Sweden are Frostviken, Lake Ånnsjön – Storlien, Middagsfjället – Dörrshöjden, Taavavuoma and Vindelfjällen Mountains.

Ecosystem and habitat

These great snipe species do not normally occur in forest. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 2400 meters. The artificial ecosystems of these species include agricultural fields.

The natural ecosystems of these great snipe species include wetlands, bogs, marshes, swamps, peatlands, boreal shrublands, dry savanna, tropical and subtropical flooded grasslands, tropical and subtropical high altitude grasslands and subarctic grasslands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the great snipe consists mainly of earthworms. A variety of adult and larval terrestrial insects, worms, gastropods, seeds of marsh plants and other plant matter are their primary food. They probe the earth with their bills and also forage by sight.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these great snipe species is from May to July. Males perform courtship displays in a gathering of males known as 'leks'. The performance begins at dusk.

The male great snipes rattle their bills and make continuous clicking noises. They also stretch into a upright position and puff out their breasts. They raise and fan their tails exposing the white feathers. Then leap into the air.

In recent studies it is found that male snipe mating success increases with display rate and the amount of white on the tail. These birds are polygamous. Three to four eggs are laid in well concealed ground nest.

Migration and movement patterns

The great snipe species are fully migratory birds.

Breeding populations occur in Russia, Belarus, Norway, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Finland and Sweden.

From early August these breeding populations of great snipe migrate through central Asia, central and south-eastern Europe and north Africa to sub-Saharan Africa for wintering.

Enroute, these great snipes gather in wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia. In October, these birds move further south and spread over southern Africa. They return to the breeding grounds in early summer (March and April).

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the great snipe (Gallinago media) is estimated to number 125,000 to 291,000 mature individual birds. The overall population trend of these snipe species is reported to be declining.

Throughout its range this snipe species is reported to be common to uncommon. The generation length is 4.8 years. Its distribution size is about 9,730,000

Habitat degradation and fragmentation, hunting for food are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these snipe species.

IUCN and CITES status

The great snipe (Gallinago media) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable, under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the snipe species and has listed it as "Near Threatened". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for great snipe (Gallinago media).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Gallinago media
Species:G. media
Binomial name:Gallinago media
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
The great snipe (Gallinago media) are closely related to the common snipe (Gallinago gallinago).
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1.Great snipe image source:
Image author: Thho46 | License: Public domain
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Radovan Václav | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 8/8/17
3.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Radovan Václav | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 8/8/17
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