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    • The common snipe’s bill is adapted to allow feeding without having to pull the bill out of the mud.

    • Low vegetation provides cover in the snipe’s open habitats—marshes, bogs, wet meadows, and tundra.

    • Marbled brown and black down camouflages common snipe chicks; adults are brown with black stripes.

    • Common snipes eat many worms, but also forage for insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and amphibians.

    • Common snipes usually lay four eggs in a grassy nest, built on a dry spot in a marsh or wet meadow.

    • Common snipes have long bills, but their legs and necks are shorter than those of most wading birds.

    A small- to medium-sized wading bird, the common snipe inhabits marshes, stream banks, bogs, wet meadows, and even the Arctic tundra. It prefers open areas, as long as there is adequate vegetation for cover. The common snipe has a vast range, spanning North America, South America, Eurasia, and Africa, and it migrates to spend winters in northern South America and central Africa.

    Though its wings look long and pointed in flight like those of other wading birds, its legs and neck are somewhat shorter. Its bill is long and slender—about 2.5 inches—enabling the bird to feed on small, submerged prey. Males are slightly larger than females, and both are somewhat similar in coloring, while the young are marbled brown and black, helping to keep them well hidden while they are most vulnerable.

    Threats to their safety and wellbeing

    Though the common snipe is considered a species of “least concern” in terms of conservation, its numbers are trending downward. It is the species’ vast range and current large numbers that allow for that designation, but the fact that its numbers are noticeably declining indicates that it is encountering difficulties.

    Draining and development of wetlands displaces the common snipe and other animals, so habitat loss is likely a major contributor to its decline. As habitat is lost, the species is forced to concentrate in greater numbers in the remaining habitat, causing overfeeding in those areas.

    Another hazard the common snipe faces is that it is still a hunted species. At the Daisy Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sabine River Basin in Texas, though, the common snipe has both healthy wetland habitat and safe haven from being hunted. In many places, the common snipe suffers from lead poisoning when it inadvertently consumes lead shot, but the prohibition on hunting within HSWLT sanctuary lands spares resident birds that hazard as well.

    How they spend their time

    The common snipe feeds mostly at dawn and dusk along the edges of lakes, ponds, and streams, as well as in muddy shallows. A specially adapted bill enables this bird to efficiently grasp and consume small creatures, such as worms, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small amphibians without stopping to remove its bill from the mud. The common snipe also eats berries, seeds, and plant fibers. It usually forages in small groups, though in winter and during migration this species may be seen in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds.

    The male common snipe is noted for its distinctive drumming, a behavior that lures females, each of whom will eventually settle with one particular male. The male achieves the drumming sound by slowly beating his wings and spreading his tail feathers while making a speedy descent. Nesting in territorial pairs, the common snipe builds a grass-lined shallow scrape for its nest, usually on dry ground within marshes, swamps, fens, and wet meadows.

    During a nesting season that runs from mid-April to August, a pair of common snipes will raise one brood. The female usually lays four eggs, which are olive-brown and spotted. Both parents feed and watch over the chicks, each taking responsibility for half of the brood, until the young are ready to fledge. If a common snipe survives its first year, it will typically live about eight more years.


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