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The Snipe

The Snipe

Gallinago gallinago

Snipe 1
Snipe 1

Have you ever been fortunate enough to hear the sound of ‘drumming’ Snipe?
Have you ever been lucky enough to be in an area where the elusive tiny Snipe comes to breed?
I consider myself blessed because I have experienced both, visiting their remote nesting spots and hearing that magical drumming.

Listen to a Drumming Snipe

This bird, no bigger than a Blackbird and beautifully speckled with shades of brown and black –  flies from Scandinavia to this country to breed in the Summer.
Numbers have plummeted fast due to habitat loss and agricultural practices such as pesticide spraying which kill the insects that they forage for.  You can see these tiny birds using their exceptional long delicate bills – probing in the mud in wild undisturbed boggy areas
They are very shy and often during the Winter, when walking the hills, a tiny snipe will dart out and disappear from under my feet

Snipe in flight
Snipe in flight

But in the Summer they get together to breed and the male gives one of the most awesome displays ever.  The first time I heard the sound of drumming Snipe – I didn’t know what it was – haunting and extraordinary – I searched the skies to see where it was coming from – but couldn’t see anything at first – and then I realised that there was a tiny dot in the sky, flying high above and then stopping and plummeting to the ground – it was then that the drumming started – a whirling sound – like nothing else I have ever heard
The Snipe produces this sound from two specially adapted tail feathers which are “hinged” on either side of its tail, so that when it plummets the wind rushes through these loose hinged tail feathers producing this mysterious sound. What a display – what a sound!
Athene English
Photograph by Matthew Stadlen

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