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Wilson's Snipe Gallinago delicata (Gallinago gallinago)


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Wilson's Snipe, from rear
credit: Johnath/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Alternate name: Common Snipe

Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ALL BIRDS Have brown upperparts overall and pale underparts, dark bars on flanks and unmarked on center of belly. Note beautiful pattern on back and wing feathers, pale margins forming white stripes, and bold dark and white stripes on head. In flight, note the strongly barred underwing.

Dimensions Length: 10 1/2" (27 cm)

Habitat Common wetland species, with breeding range extending across most of northern North America. Most breeding birds move south in winter when it becomes common across southern half of continent; range extends through Central America.

Observation Tips Most conspicuous when displaying in spring. In winter, easy to overlook until flushed, because it is well camouflaged among dead wetland plants. Subject to considerable hunting pressure during winter months.

Range Eastern Canada, Northwest, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, California, Great Lakes, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Western Canada, Texas, Southeast, Southwest

Voice Utters a sneezing ske-erch call in alarm. Bleating, whistlelike sound is heard as outer tail feathers vibrate in display flight on breeding grounds.

Discussion Plump-bodied shorebird with relatively short, yellowish green legs and a long, pale-based bill. This is used to probe soft ground in sewing machinelike manner; the mandible tips are extremely sensitive and able to detect invertebrate prey. Plumage provides extremely good camouflage in favored marshy habitats, blending in well with tangled dead stems of wetland plants. Flight is rapid and zigzagging when flushed. Sometimes seen in flocks outside breeding season in places where feeding is good. Formerly treated as conspecific with Eurasian Common Snipe G. gallinago, but now considered to be a separate species. Sexes are similar.