[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Gallinago media | [UK] Great Snipe | [FR] Bécassine double | [DE] Doppelschnepfe | [ES] Agachadiza Real | [IT] Croccolone | [NL] Poelsnip

Poelsnip determination

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Medium sized, bulky snipe. Differs from similar species by bold white tips on wing coverts, bold dark barring on white underparts, and unbarred white corners to tail. Distal half of bill has slight droop. Female very similar to male, but averages slightly larger. Non-breeding adult has duller and darker upperparts. Juvenile like breeding adult, but duskier and less well marked, brown bands on white tail corners.

Usually in wide river valleys, floodplain meadows, tussock meadows, peatland, tundra with scattered bushes, and sometimes drier woodlands adjacent to marshes or bogs After breeding, occurs in marshland, in short grass or sedges on lake edges or flooded fields, tracks in wooded areas.

Gallinago media is a widespread summer visitor to Fennoscandia and north-east Europe, which constitutes >50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<170,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although populations in most European countries were stable during 1990-2000, the stronghold population in Russia declined, and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, this globally Near Threatened species is evaluated as Declining in Europe.
This wader is breeding in northern and north-eastern Europe and north-western Asia, between 50°N and 68°N. It winters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is not longer breeding in the European Union (12 Member States), where it occurs only as a passage migrant. Its European populations, estimated at about 230000 breeding pairs, are strongly declining since the second half of last century, especially the most western ones. The main reasons for this decline are wetland reclamation and degradation of grasslands liable to be flooded

Mainly earthworms, but also gastropods and terrestrial insects, such as beetles and tipulids, also seeds, mainly of marsh plants. Probes in soil for earthworms, but also pecks from surface and feeds in very shallow water. Feeds singly or in small numbers. Crepuscular and nocturnal feeder.

Gallinago media breeds primarily in Russia, east to 95°E (150,000-250,000 pairs), with large numbers in Belarus (12,000-20,000 pairs) and Norway (5,000-15,000 pairs). It also breeds in Poland, Finland, Sweden, Estonia (500-700 males), Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The total population is estimated at 118,000-1,050,000 individuals. From early August, it migrates through central Asia, central and south-eastern Europe (notably Turkey and Cyprus) and Egypt, with birds gathering in wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia. When these dry out in October, birds follow the rains south and west to Sudan, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Namibia. Its range has contracted and numbers have declined since the late 19th century. Although the Scandinavian population has stabilised, there are continuing rapid declines in the southern forest and forest-steppe zones of Russia and Ukraine. These are largely a result of the destruction and deterioration of nesting habitats which include flood-plain and tussock meadows, natural fens with scattered bushes and peatlands up to 1,200 m. The main causes of habitat loss are conversion to intensive agriculture, wetland drainage and the submergence of river valleys during the creation of reservoirs. It is also hunted in eastern Europe and in its wintering range. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Egg laying in May-July. Polygamous species. The only Gallinago with no aerial nuptial display in which distinctive sounds made by tail feathers. Instead, has complex lekking system, with males gathering after sunset on traditional display grounds. Performs elaborate display on top of small mound in which white outer tail feathers are distinctly advertised.
Female alone builds nest, incubates, and cares for young. Solitary breeder. Nest is shallow depression in ground, filled with some moss or grass, in thick vegetation, usually completely concealed. 4 eggs are laid, incubation 22-24 days. Chicks are cinnamon-buff or densely mottled ferruginous brown above with brown median zone bordered black with dense buffish white down tips. Young independent immediately after fledging.

Migratory, to much larger extent than other west Palearctic snipe. Winters mainly in Afrotropical region (especially eastern half), with a few (probably irregularly) in north-west Europe¾exceptionally even in southern Scandinavia. Only vagrant to Indian subcontinent. Movements away from breeding areas discernible by early August; autumn passage through eastern and central Europe mainly August-September, though continuing into November, and protracted period perhaps due to slower exodus of juveniles. Bulk of spring passage rather late, with a good many still in Zambia in April, and return movement through Kenya in 2nd-3rd week May; south European recoveries late March to early April, and vanguard reaches FSU in April. Main movement evidently rapid since breeding grounds reoccupied during May and early June.