[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Gallinago gallinago | [UK] Snipe | [FR] Bécassine des marais | [DE] Bekassine | [ES] Agachadiza Común | [IT] Beccaccino comune | [NL] Watersnip

Watersnip determination

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Small to medium sized snipe, with rather long bill and white belly. Plumage variable, and melanistic morph occurs. Flight faster and more erratic than other snipes of similar size. Differs from very similar G. stenura, G. hardwickii and G. megala by prominent white trailing edge to wing, and supercilium narrower than eyestripe at base of bill. Sexes alike. No seasonal variation. Juvenile very similar to adult, but wing coverts more neatly fringed pale buff. Race faeroeensis darker and more rufous above, with narrower, less contrasting, back stripes. G. delicata darker than faeroeensis. Generally less rufous than nominate with heavier barring on flanks, and usually has darker underwing.

Open fresh or brackish marshland with rich or tussocky vegetation, grassy or marshy edges of lakes and rivers, wet hay fields, swampy meadows and marshy tundra, in forest tundra and extreme northern taiga zones. In general, found in areas providing combination of grassy cover and moist soils, rich in organic matter. Outside breeding season, generally occupies similar habitats, with more use of man made habitats' sewage farms and rice fields.

Gallinago gallinago is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>930,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although it remained stable in much of eastern Europe—including the key Russian population—during 1990-2000, the species suffered declines in most of the rest of Europe, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, this previously Secure species is now provisionally evaluated as Declining.
This bird inhabits the major part of Europe, except the Mediterranean regions, northern Asia and North America. European populations winter in Europe, vacating areas with severe frost, and in sub-Saharan Africa. The population of the European Union is estimated at about 100000 breeding pairs, the total European population at about 900000 breeding pairs, Russia not included. In many regions this species is declining, following wetland reclamation and changing management in the remaining wetlands

Larval and adult insects, earthworms, small crustaceans, small gastropods and spiders. Plant fibres and seeds consumed in smaller quantities. Feeds by vertical, rhythmic probing in substrate, often without removing bill from soil. Feeds typically in small groups, essentially crepuscular.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence >10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be >5,400,000-7,500,000 individuals1. Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Egg laying from April to June, pair bond monogamous, but both sexes show high degree of promiscuity. very territorial. Nest usually on dry spot, covered by grasses, rushes, sedges or sphagnum. 4 eggs, incubation 17-20 days, by female alone. Chicks are mahogany red, moe hazel brown or tawny on sides of head and underparts, with black and white bands on head. Both parents care for young, but male entices oldest 1 or 2 from nest to tend.

Largely migratory, but partially migratory to resident in western maritime countries of Europe. Small numbers winter in Iceland, Faeroes, western Norway, Denmark, and western Germany (more in mild seasons), but main Old World winter range extends from British Isles and Low Countries to Iberia and Maghreb, thence eastwards through Mediterranean basin, Middle East, and southern Asia. Also winters in large numbers in Africa south of Sahara; oasis and Sahel observations indicate broad-front crossings of Sahara. Birds of the migratory North American race, G. g. delicata, have straggled to Britain in autumn. Autumn passage of Fenno-Scandian populations starts July; peak numbers in Denmark and Netherlands September-October, and all in wintering areas in November. Spring migration starts March (perhaps February in Iberia), and breeding grounds reoccupied April-May.