Bird Database

Wilson’s Snipe

(Gallinago delicata)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Wetland loss

Conservation Actions

Protect wetlands

Wilson’s Snipe

(Gallinago delicata)

The word “snipe” comes from Middle English, where is roots are probably in a Scandinavian word for “snout,” clearly a reference to the bird’s long bill. The word “sniper” comes from the bird, in that expert marksmanship was required when hunting them. When flushed, birds burst from cover and fly away rapidly in a zig-zag pattern that can be very hard to follow. Despite the challenge involved in shooting snipe, excessive hunting severely depleted their numbers in the early 1900s, leading to a nationwide ban on hunting the species from 1942-1953. Populations recovered but have been in decline regionally since around 1980, despite an apparent decline in overall hunting pressure.

Snipe are closely related to the America Woodcock, and like this species have modified feathers that produce sound. In the case of the snipe these are the outer tail feathers, which make a tremulous “winnowing” noise as air passes over them in flight. While the flight display of the woodcock serves primarily to attract mates, in snipe it is mostly a territorial signal between males. Unlike woodcock, snipe are typically found in wetlands. They nest in bogs, shrub swamps, wet meadows, and along the edges of marshes. Outside the breeding season they will even venture away from vegetation to feed on exposed mudflats.

The nest is generally built on a hummock in a wetland and concealed by vegetation. Four ages are laid and incubated for a little less than three weeks. When the young hatch they can wander away from the nest within an hour, and the female sometimes needs to bring them back if other eggs have yet to hatch. Chicks grow rapidly and can make short flights when they are as young as two weeks. By three weeks they are independent of their parents and may start gathering in groups prior to beginning fall migration.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Wilson’s Snipe
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count