Snipe

Latin Name: Gallinago gallinago

Family: Scolopacidae

With its camouflage-like brown plumage, the snipe can be difficult to spot in its favoured thick grassland and moorland habitat. However, if you do catch sight of this characterful wading bird, it is easy to identify thanks to its long narrow bill which it uses to dig for food. During the breeding season snipes usually become easier to see as they will often perch up on fence posts or wall tops to mark their territory.

If you are lucky, you might get chance to observe the snipe’s spectacular display flight as the birds fly over potentially suitable breeding areas. During this courtship display, the snipe makes a strange whirring or drumming sound. This is not birdsong but is instead caused by air passing over specially shaped outer tail feathers that are spread out as the birds begin their display flights.

Within the Yorkshire Dales, snipe nest on areas of wet ground and thick vegetation, of which there is plenty within the National Park, ranging from the tops of the fells down to the valley bottoms.

Survey work carried out as part of the Moorland Bird Survey of the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the early 1990s located approximately 900 pairs, whilst a survey of enclosed grassland below the moorland boundary in 2000 estimated that between 245 and 745 pairs of snipe were present.

At risk?

The RSPB has allocated an Amber conservation status to the snipe.

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There is a freshness and at times a undefineable fragrance to the air at high altitude in the Pennines. Joan E. Duncan & R.W.Robson

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