Species Spotlight: Wilson’s Snipe


Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo by Dan Streiffert

Wilson’s Snipe is a migratory shorebird that is widely distributed across North America, inhabiting a variety of wetland habitats such as marshes, bogs, swamps, and meadows. Named after the American ornithologist Alexander Wilson, these birds are known for their distinctive behavior, remarkable camouflage, and unique vocalizations.

They have a stocky build with a long, slender bill that is sensitive to touch and allows them to probe for invertebrates in the mud. The snipe’s plumage is intricately patterned with mottled brown, black, and buff tones, providing excellent camouflage in their marshy habitats.

Wilson’s Snipe is primarily active during the twilight hours. They are well adapted to their wetland environments, utilizing their long bill to probe the mud for insects, worms, and small invertebrates. Snipes are known for their remarkable camouflage, relying on their cryptic plumage to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. They often freeze in place when threatened, making it challenging for predators to detect them.

During courtship displays, male Wilson’s Snipes perform elaborate aerial displays called “winnowing.” This display involves the male flying in a series of zigzag patterns while creating a distinct “winnowing” sound by vibrating its modified outer tail feathers. This acrobatic performance is intended to attract females and establish territory.

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