Great Snipe

Great Snipe

Gallinago media
Population size
0.45-1 M
96.6 km/h
140-260 g
26-30 cm
42-50 cm

The Great snipe is a small beautifully camouflaged wading bird. Its body is mottled brown on top and barred underneath. The bird has a dark stripe through the eye. The wings are broad, and a pale wing bar is visible in flight. The sexes look similar but females are generally larger than males.


Great snipes breed in north-eastern Europe, including north-western Russia and winter in Africa. These birds inhabit grasslands, marshes, wet meadows with short vegetation, grassy bogs, and on the wintering grounds they can often be found in ricefields and recently flooded areas.

Great Snipe habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Great snipes are most active in the dusk and at night when they forage singly or in small groups. They feed in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. These birds are difficult to see, as they are well camouflaged in their habitat. When flushed from cover, they fly straight for a considerable distance before dropping back into the vegetation. Their voice is described as a faint 'yeah'. Mating display calls of groups can be heard at long distances and include a rising and falling series of chirping calls and accelerating clicking noises.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Great snipes are carnivores (insectivores). They mainly eat insects and earthworms and occasionally plant material.

Mating Habits

22-24 days
21-28 days
3-4 eggs

Great snipes are polygynous meaning that one male mates with several females during the breeding season. At dusk the males display at a lek (arena), standing erect with chest puffed and tail fanned out. They may jump into the air and will produce a variety of rattles, clicks, buzzes, and whistles while displaying. Females lay 3 to 4 eggs in a well-hidden nest on the ground. The incubation period lasts about 22-24 days. The chicks are precocial; they are hatched with eyes open and leave the nest immediately. They start to fly between 21-28 days after hatching and become independent.


Population threats

Great snipes are threatened primarily by habitat loss due to degradation of the nesting areas, expansion of the agriculture, and drainage of wetlands. In eastern Europe and in their African wintering range, these birds suffer from hunting and the Scandinavian population faces a serious threat from habitat loss due to climate change.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Great snipe population size varies from 450,000-1,000,000 individuals in 2007 to 118,000-1,051,000 individuals in 2012. According to the Wikipedia resource in 2012, there were estimated to be between 15,000 and 40,000 Great snipes in Scandinavia and between 450,000 and 1,000,000 individuals in western Siberia and northeastern Europe. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The genus name of the Great snipe Gallinago is New Latin for a woodcock or snipe from Latin 'gallina' (a hen) and the suffix '-ago' (resembling). The specific 'media' is Latin and means 'intermediate' because the Great snipe is intermediate in size between the woodcock and the Common snipe.
  • The Great snipe is the fastest migratory bird. When migrating south from Sweden to central Africa these birds fly nonstop over a distance of around 4,200 miles (6,760 km) at a phenomenal 60 mph (97 kph).
  • Despite that the wings of Great snipes are not especially aerodynamic, lacking pointed tips, these birds are noted for their fast, non-stop flying capabilities over huge distances. They typically do not even stop to feed but instead rely on stores of fat.
  • Great snipes are generally silent birds but during the breeding season they become very vocal; their mating display calls can be heard more than 300 m (330 yds) away.
  • The Great snipe is the only member in its genus that doesn't perform aerial courtship displays.


1. Great Snipe on Wikipedia -
2. Great Snipe on The IUCN Red List site -

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