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Wilson's Snipe


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A common shorebird of wet, grassy spots, the Wilson's Snipe has an extremely long bill that it uses to probe in the mud for small invertebrates. Its camouflage is so good that it often is not seen before it flushes from the grass.

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At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
10.6–12.6 in
27–32 cm
16.1–17.3 in
41–44 cm
2.8–5.1 oz
79–146 g
Other Names
  • Common Snipe
  • Bécassine de Wilson (French)
  • Agachona común, Becasina chillona (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Wilson's Snipe was recently recognized as a different species from the Common Snipe of Eurasia. The two snipes look extremely similar, but differ in the shape, patterning, and usually the number of the tail feathers. The Wilson's Snipe typically has 16 tail feathers, whereas the Common Snipe has 14. These numbers vary, however, and a Common Snipe may have from 12 to 18 tail feathers.
  • The hollow, low whistled sound called "winnowing" is used by the male to defend his territory and attract a mate. It is not a vocal sound, but rather is produced by air flowing over the outstretched tail feathers with each wingbeat. The outer tail feathers are greatly modified to produce the sound and are thin and curved.
  • The long bill of the Wilson's Snipe is flexible. The tips can be opened and closed with no movement at the base of the bill. Sensory pits at the tip of the bill allow the snipe to feel its prey deep in the mud.
  • The clutch size of the Wilson's Snipe is almost always four eggs. The male snipe takes the first two chicks to hatch and leaves the nest with them. The female takes the last two and cares for them. Apparently the parents have no contact after that point.



Breeds in bogs, fens, swamps, and around the marshy edges of ponds, rivers, and brooks. Forages in marshes, wet meadows, wet fields, and the marshy edges of streams and ditches.



Larval insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, some vegetation and seeds.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–4 eggs
Egg Description
Dark or pale brown, covered by darker spots.
Condition at Hatching
Downy chicks leave nest soon after hatching.
Nest Description

Neat, woven cup of grasses placed on ground, often in hummock of grass close to or surrounded by water.

Nest Placement




Probes in soil and mud, frequently sticking entire bill, and sometimes its head, under water. Swallows small items without withdrawing its bill.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Common. Hunted in many places.


  • Mueller, H. 1999. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). In The Birds of North America, No. 417 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

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