Unsorted Wild Birds

Wilson’s Snipe

The Wilson’s Snipes (Gallinago delicata) is a small, stocky shorebird.

This species was, before a recent split, formerly considered to be a subspecies of 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 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.


The Wilson’s Snipes 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 northern South America. It is a year-round residence 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.

The male performs a “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.

Food / Diet:

These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, also plant material.

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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