email a friend
printable version
Great Snipe Gallinago media
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is thought to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing primarily to habitat loss and degradation, as well as hunting pressure; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd. Any evidence that the decline is more rapid may qualify the species for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Distribution and population
This species breeds primarily in Russia, east to 95°E (150,000-250,000 males), with large numbers in Belarus (4,600-6,000 males) and Norway (5,000-15,000 males). It also breeds in Poland (300-350 males), Finland (2-17 males), Sweden (1,300-2,300 males), Estonia (450-550 males), Latvia (200-300 males), Lithuania (100-150 males), Ukraine (500-700 males) and Kazakhstan (BirdLife International 2015). Estimates for the total population size vary from c. 118,000-1,051,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012) to 450,000-1,000,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt. 2007). It should be noted that the estimation of effective breeding populations from numbers of lekking males is difficult as possibly only 50% of males obtain matings (J. A. Kålås in litt. 2007).

From early August, it migrates through central Asia, central and south-eastern Europe (notably Turkey and Cyprus) Tunisia and Egypt, with birds gathering in wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia (J. Ash in litt. 1999). When these dry out in October, birds follow the rains south and west to Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Namibia. Its range has contracted and numbers have declined since the late 19th century.

Population justification
Its population size is poorly known, with estimates varying from c. 118,000-1,051,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012) to 450,000-1,000,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt. 2007).

Trend justification
The overall trend is thought to be decreasing. Recently published data suggests that the European breeding population has probably declined overall by only c. 5-15% over the last three generations (14.4 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 4.8 years) (BirdLife International 2015). This trend is driven by the Russian population, which comprises >80% of the European population and is estimated to have declined by c. 5-10% during 2001-2012. Many national populations in central and eastern Europe are still declining. Data from Asian Russia is limited but it is thought that the population there may be declining (R. Ekblom in litt. 2015, V. Morozov per A. Mischenko in litt. 2015), and overall a moderately rapid reduction is still suspected.

Nesting habitats include flood-plain and tussock meadows, natural fens with scattered bushes and peatlands up to 1,200 m (J. Ash in litt. 1999) in lowland interior taiga and wooded tundra (Cramp and Simmons 1983). In the Scandinavian mountains it breeds along the tree line. It shows a preference for habitats rich in sub-surface invertebrates and medium density scrub cover for nesting, often in wide river valleys (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Although generally associated with moist to wet terrain, it is tolerant of wooded, and occasionally well-drained sites that adjoin bogs or marshes (Cramp and Simmons 1983). A considerable area of marshy ground may be essential for display purposes (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Many sites are fringed with willow Salix, alder Alnus and birch Betula growing as scrub or woodland, or burnt areas in course of regrowth (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It favours areas where the ground is covered with mosses, lichens and dead and decaying leaves (Johnsgard 1981). Juveniles are often found around springs in steppe, or even in wheatfields (Cramp and Simmons 1983). 
On migration it occurs in drier meadows but also on sedge marshes with G. gallinago. It gathers on wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia (J. Ash in litt. 1999) before these dry out in October, after which it follows the rains south and west (del Hoyo et al.1996). During the winter it frequents wetland areas, including marshlands and short grass or sedges on lake edges or in flooded fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is also found in drier habitats such as moorland, sand dunes (Johnsgard 1981), tracks in wooded areas, in plough furrows and occasionally at puddles on dirt roads or in old cultivation (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Its diet consists predominantly of earthworms as well as gastropods, adult and larval terrestrial insects (beetles, tipulids), and the seeds of marsh plants (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds from mid-May to early-July and nests solitarily, although it has a polygamous mating system (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The departure from the breeding grounds occurs from early-August onwards, with the species arriving on its wintering grounds just after the rainy season (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The return northward migration occurs on a broad front across Africa between March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The southern breeding birds go directly to their breeding grounds, while the northern breeding birds probably use more southern roosting sites while waiting for the breeding areas to become available in early June.

Rapid declines in the southern forest and forest-steppe zones of Russia and Ukraine are largely a result of the destruction and deterioration of nesting habitats. The main causes of habitat loss are conversion to intensive agriculture (Kålås et al. 1997), wetland drainage and the submergence of river valleys during the creation of reservoirs. It is also hunted in eastern Europe and in its wintering range (Kålås 2003, C. Zöckler in litt. 2015), with reports of several thousands killed in just 15-20 days in Amasia, Armenia (L. Balyan in litt. 2008). Habitat loss due to climate change may represent the most severe threat to the Scandinavian population (R. Ekblom in litt. 2007, J. A. Kålås in litt. 2007).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. An international single species action plan was published in 2004 (R. Ekblom in litt. 2007). National action plans for this species have been published for several countries, including Sweden, Estonia, Ukraine and Latvia (R. Ekblom in litt. 2007). Conservation actions to re-wet the Vinogradovo Floodplain, Moscow Region are underway (Mischenko et al. 2014).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Establish coordinated monitoring programmes in all countries within the species's distribution range to monitor trends. Research population numbers and trends in Russia. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Increase the area of suitable habitat with protected status. Investigate the impact of climate change on the species and determine mitigation measures. Work with farmers and land managers to ensure the use of favourable land management. Initiate changes in agricultural practices through EU and national policies.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Cramp, S.; Simmons, K. E. L. 1983. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic vol. III: waders to gulls. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Ekblom, R.; Carlsson, P. 2007. An estimate of the Great Snipe Gallinago media population in Sweden based on recent surveys at Ånnsjön and Storlien. Ornis Svecica 17: 37-47.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johnsgard, P. A. 1981. The plovers, sandpipers and snipes of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, U.S.A. and London.

Kålås, J. A.; Fiske, P.; Höglund, J. 1997. Food supply and breeding occurrences: the West European population of the lekking Great Snipe Gallinago media (Latham, 1787) (Aves). Journal of Biogeography 24: 213-222.

Mischenko, A., Sukhanova, O. and Zöckler, C. 2014. Rewetting the Vinogradovo Floodplain, Moscow Region, Russia: a project in support of wader populations. Wader Study Group Bulletin 121(2): 77-80.

Stroud, D. A.; Davidson, N. C.; West, R.; Scott, D. A.; Haanstra, L.; Thorup, O.; Ganter, B.; Delany, S. 2004. Status of migratory wader populations in African and Western Eurasia in the 1990s. International Wader Studies 15: 1-259.

Tucker, G.M. and Heath, M.F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Wetlands International. 2012. Waterbird Population Estimates: 5th Edition.

Further web sources of information
African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) International Action Plan 2004

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Malpas, L., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Ash, J., Baha El Din, S., Ekblom, R., Hall, P., Kålås, J., Morozov, V., Raudonikis, L., Zöckler, C. & Mischenko, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Gallinago media. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Great snipe (Gallinago media) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes)
Species name author (Latham, 1787)
Population size 80000-660000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 6,130,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment