Snipe by Rob Miller


Gallinago gallinago

Key Facts

  • Length: 25-27cm
  • Wingspan: 46cm
  • Weight: 110g
  • Average Lifespan: 3 years

A medium-sized wader, snipe live in marshes, wet grassland and moorlands where they nest in simple scrapes.

They use their long, probing bill to find insects, earthworms and crustaceans in the mud, typically swallowing prey whole. During the breeding season, the males can be heard making a unique ‘drumming’ sound as their tail feathers vibrate in the wind during rapid descents in flight displays.

How to Identify

Fairly unmistakeable. The larger woodcock is a bird of woodlands while the Snipe is found on grasslands and moorlands and is smaller with a shorter bill. Snipe are brown with an intricate pattern of black and gold stripes and bars and a stripy-brown and gold head. They have short, greyish-green legs and a very long, straight bill.

Where to Find

Widespread, a fairly uncommon breeding bird but common winter visitor, found on wet grassland and marshes.

How People Can Help

From 1982 to 2002 there was a 62% reduction in the number of breeding snipe in England and Wales – a significant decline mirrored in many of our wading birds. Wetland birds have suffered immensely from changing agricultural practices, land drainage and development but The Wildlife Trusts are working with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a ‘Living Landscape’: a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Did you know?

Snipe have a flexible tip to the beak which is also full of nerves: they can feel for worms deep underground and then open the end of their beak to grab them.

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