WILSON’S SNIPE

WILSON’S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Wilson’s snipe is a shorebird that looks similar to the American Woodcock. It is well-camouflaged bird with a long, thin bill that is more than twice the length of the head. It has a plump body on short legs. Its pectoral muscles are very powerful and can propel the bird at speeds up to almost 100 km/hr (60 mph) in flight. The colors are mottled brown and striped with white for the upper parts. The bird also has its eyes positioned further back on the head, allowing for a larger vision field which helps avoid predators while feeding. Sexes are similar. The length of this bird is approximately 10 inches (25 cm).
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Gallinago-delicata
NAME: The Latin name means ‘resembling a hen’ and ‘delicata’ means ‘exquisite’ (not ‘delicate’). The English name is in memory of ornithologist Alexander Wilson, and ‘snipe’ refers to the bird’s long bill.
HABITAT: During breeding season: marshes and bogs. During migration: agricultural fields in addition to wetlands.
DIET: This species, like the American woodcock, feeds on insects by probing its bill up and down in the ground while walking, in a sewing machine-like fashion. It feeds around dawn and dusk and rests during the day.
BREEDING/NESTING: During courtship display, a winnowing sound can be heard when the bird is circling and diving. This sound originates from the tail feathers. The nest is built on moist ground in a well-sheltered area. An average of three dark green eggs are laid. Wilson’s snipes will feign injury if their nest is threatened, trying to attract away a potential predator. Chicks are on their own soon after birth.
DISTRIBUTION: The native range of Wilson’s snipes covers most of Canada and Alaska, and their wintering grounds start from the mid latitudes of the USA, southward to northern South America. Some individuals will migrate to the Pacific islands, including Hawaii.
CONSERVATION: This species is hunted in the fall in the USA and Canada, but their numbers appear stable and they are listed as of ‘least concern’, although they are vulnerable to habitat destruction from marsh draining for example.
NOTES: There is a practical joke called ‘going on a snipe hunt’ which serves as some kind of rite of passage in summer camps.
The word ‘sniper’ has its origins from the hunting of this bird by soldiers, and eventually came to mean a concealed marksman or soldier who can shoot from a large distance.
SIMILAR SPECIES: American Woodcock
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson%27s_snipe
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wilsons_Snipe/lifehistory
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/wilsons-snipe
http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/wilsons_snipe
http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/685/_/Wilsons_Snipe.aspx

Wilson's Snipe - Yolo Ct, CA - Dec. 2017 - photo by ADJ82
Wilson’s Snipe – Yolo Ct, CA – Dec. 2017 – photo by ADJ82

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