GALLERIES > BIRDS > CHARADRIIFORMES > SCOLOPACIDAE > WILSON'S SNIPE [Gallinago delicata]
Location: Katy (Katy Prairie), TXGPS: 29.9N, -95.7W, elev=149' MAP
Date: January 31, 2009
ID : 7C2V3734 [3888 x 2592]
Location: Santa Cruz Flats, AZGPS: 32.8N, -111.6W, elev=1,556' MAP
Date: November 11, 2007
ID : 7480 [3888 x 2592]
The Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) is a small, stocky shorebird.
Their breeding habitat is marshes, bogs, tundra and wet meadows in Canada and the northern United States. They nest in a well-hidden location on the ground.
The eastern population migrates to the southern United States and to northern South America. It is a year-round resident on the Pacific coast of the United States.
Adults are 23-28 cm in length with a 39-45 cm wingspan. They have short greenish-grey legs and a very long straight dark bill. The body is mottled brown on top and pale underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye, with light stripes above and below it. The wings are pointed. Most people describe their appearance as dignified, calling them "the prime ministers of the wide bird world", while still others find them to be quite absurd, as in these lines of poetry by Anonymous: "stalky legs and mottled coat, the stripey eye and threatening beak / barely a wing yet flying absurdly in the face of taste". The flavour of their meat is described as terrible, even "gut-wrenchingly awful", though a traipsing party of some twenty were reported to have fed on the bellies of Wilson's Snipes cooked with cat-tails over the marsh-wood, by regimen, for several days and hours when they became lost in an extensive Canadian bog.
These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, also plant material.
The male performs "winnowing" display during courtship, flying high in circles and then taking shallow dives to produce a distinctive sound. The Wilson's Snipe was reduced by hunting near the end of the 19th century and loss of habitat. However, this bird remains fairly common.
This species was, before a recent split, formerly considered to be a subspecies to the Common Snipe, G. gallinago. Wilson's Snipe differs from the latter species in having a narrower white edge to the wings, and eight pairs of tail feathers instead of seven.
This well-camouflaged bird is usually shy and conceals itself close to ground vegetation and flushes only when approached closely. They fly off in a series of aerial zig-zags to confuse predators. Snipe hunters, therefore, needed to be very skilled to hunt these birds and they came to be called snipers - a term later adopted by the military.