Wilson's Snipe

Another inland shorebird, the Wilson’s Snipe is more likely to be found near water than the woodcock. These birds inhabit bogs, swamps, fens, and the marshy edges of lakes and rivers. Like the woodcock, this bird also performs a flight display which produces a non-vocal sound. The bird flies up into the air and then rapidly descends while fanning its tail feathers. This produces a haunting, tremulous sound referred to as “winnowing”. The function of these winnowing flights is to defend territories and threaten competitors. During courtship, both males and females give a “tsch” call. Prior to copulation, a chicken-like series of clucks is given. Nests are constructed by the female and consist of a shallow scrape in the mud lined with woven grasses. Nests are typically well-hidden by vegetation on the boundary of a wetland area. As eggs hatch and young develop, the male leaves with the first two chicks while the female cares for those remaining. A week after hatching, young birds are led to foraging areas by their parents where they are initially feed and begin probing on their own.

Safe Dates: May 15th to July 25th (applicable for only the S or H codes).


Breeding Evidence: If you hear a non-vocal winnow, this is used for territory advertisement and you can use code S. The simplest way to upgrade this to a “Probable Breeder” is to listen for winnowing again at the same location 7 or more days later to upgrade the code to S7. If the courting call performed by male and female snipe or pre-copulation clucking is heard, use code C. Wilson’s Snipe young leave the nest and begin foraging soon after hatching. Within 6 weeks, young snipe will gather into loose foraging groups. If you observe any of these recently edged young, as long as they are not capable of strong flight, you can use code FL.

Image courtesy of Amber Hart. 

Audio courtesy of Martin St-Michel.

© 2019 Logan Parker

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is a part of the Maine Natural History Observatory