Common snipe

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

The common snipe species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Europe, Asia and Africa. These snipe species have a very long slender bill and cryptic plumage. These snipes are polytypic species.

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

Common snipe - Overview

  • Scientific name: Gallinago gallinago
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Scolopax Gallinago Linnaeus, 1758, Capella gallinago
  • Family: Scolopacidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Common snipe, Chinese: 扇尾沙锥, French: Bécassine des marais, German: Bekassine, Spanish: Agachadiza común, Russian: Бекас, Japanese: タシギ, Indonesian: Berkik Ekor-kipas
  • Other names: Eurasian Snipe, European Snipe, Fantail Snipe
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Asia, Europe, Africa
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, worms, molluscs, small crustaceans, spiders, plant material
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is a medium-sized bird, measuring 25 to 30 cm in length and weighing 70 to 180 grams. The wingspan is around 45 to 50 cm.

The overall plumage of the common snipe is brown mottled with straw yellow stripes. There is a central pale stripe on the crown. The dark brown lore stripe pass through the eyes and extend to the sides of the head. The underparts are whitish.

The bill is dark, slender and long. The irises are dark brown. The legs are short and greenish gray. Melanistic morphs have been observed among these species.

The male performs courtship display, by flying high in circles and then taking shallow dives to produces a drumming sound by friction between the tail feathers.
Indian birds - Picture of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago
1.Birds of India - Image of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago by Alpsdake

Birds of India - Photo of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago
2.Indian birds - Picture of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago by Bernard DUPONT

Indian birds - Image of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago
3.Birds of India - Photo of Common snipe - Gallinago gallinago by Ferran Pestaña

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The common snipe species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Europe, Asia and Africa. In India, these common snipe species are distributed in all the states and Andaman Islands.

Breeding common snipe populations are distributed in Europe, northwest, northcentral and northeast Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, north Afghanistan and northwest India (Jammu and Kashmir).

Vagrant birds have been observed in Cape Verde, Seychelles, Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (Norway), Northern Mariana Islands (USA), Labrador region (Canada), Alaska (USA) and United States Minor Outlying Islands (USA).

Ecosystem and habitat

These common snipe species have low forest dependence. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 2000 meters.

The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these common snipe species include cultivated fields, flooded agricultural lands, ponds, water storage areas and flooded pasturelands.

The natural ecosystems of these common snipe species include boreal forests, tropical and subtropical flooded grasslands, tundra wetlands, estuaries, swamps, marshes, peatlands, freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of common snipe consists mainly of invertebrates. Terrestrial and aquatic insects, insect larvae, worms, crustaceans, earthworms and molluscs are their primary food.

These common snipe species forage in small groups. They probe the substrate with their long slender bill and feed on small invertebrates on or under the ground in shallow, muddy waters. They also consume small quantities of plant material and seeds.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the common snipe species is from April to June in much of its breeding range. These species are monogamous and highly territorial. However both sexes show high degree of promiscuity.

The nesting site is a dry spot concealed in grasses, rushes, sedges or sphagnum. The nest is a shallow depression on the ground. Several nests are lost due to trampling by cattle and also by predation of eggs and nestlings.

The common snipe clutch contains four olive brown eggs with dark brown blotches and spots. The female is observed to incubate the eggs. The chick hatch out in 18-21 days. The parents brood and take care of young. The chicks fledge in 20 days.

Migration and movement patterns

These common snipe species are partially migratory birds. The autumn migration to wintering grounds occurs from August to November. The spring migration to breeding grounds occurs in March.

The breeding common snipe populations occur in north and northeastern Europe, north, central, northwest and northeast Asia. The birds breeding in north Europe migrate to southern and western Europe for wintering.

The common snipes breeding in western and central Asia are believed to migrate to Middle East and tropical Sub-Saharan Africa for wintering.

The breeding snipe populations from central and eastern Russia, northern Mongolia and northeast China are believed to migrate to Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, south and southeast China and Japan for wintering.

The common snipe populations in parts of Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, parts of France, Belgium, Denmark, northeast Germany and southwest coastal Norway are non-migratory and resident.

Post breeding, the juveniles of these resident birds 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 common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is estimated to number 15,000,000 to 29,000,000 mature individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be decreasing.

Throughout its range this snipe species is reported to be uncommon to common. The generation length is 4.8 years. Its distribution size is about 63,100,000

Habitat degradation and fragmentation, hunting and draining of wetlands are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these species.

IUCN and CITES status

The common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 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 common snipe (Gallinago gallinago).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Gallinago gallinago
Species:G. gallinago
Binomial name:Gallinago gallinago
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is closely related to Wilson's snipe (Gallinago delicata), African snipe (Gallinago nigripennis), South American snipe (Gallinago paraguaiae), puna snipe (Gallinago andina) and Madagascan snipe (Gallinago macrodactyla).

The two recognized subspecies of Gallinago gallinago are: Gallinago gallinago gallinago (Linnaeus, 1758) and Gallinago gallinago faeroeensis (C. L. Brehm, 1831).
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1.Common snipe photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Bernard DUPONT | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 9/3/17
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Ferran Pestaña | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 9/3/17
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