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 (Tucker and Heath 1994). Any evidence that the decline is more rapid may qualify the species for uplisting to a higher threat category.
Distribution and populationGallinago media
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _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.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
breeds primarily in Russia
, east to 95°E (150,000-250,000 males), with large numbers in Belarus
(12,000-20,000 males) and Norway
(10,000-20,000 mature individuals [J. A. Kålås in litt
). It also breeds in Poland
(1,800 lekking males [Ekblom and Carlsson 2007]), Estonia
(500-700 males [Kålås et al.
. The Scandinavian population probably numbers 13,000-25,000 mature individuals (J. A. Kålås in litt
. The total population is estimated at 500,000-1,050,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt
. 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
, 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
, Burkina Faso
, Sierra Leone
, Côte d'Ivoire
, Democratic Republic of Congo
, South Africa
. Its range has contracted and numbers have declined since the late 19th century.Population justification
There are an estimated 13,000-25,000 mature individuals in Scandinavia (roughly equivalent to 15,000-40,000 total individuals) (J. A. Kålås in litt.
2007) and 450,000-1,000,000 individuals in W Siberia and NE Europe (V. Morozov in litt.
The overall trend is decreasing, particularly in the eastern population, although some populations may be stable (Wetlands International 2006).EcologyBehaviour
This species is migratory (del Hoyo et al.
. It breeds from mid-May to early-July and nests solitarily, although it has a polygamous mating system (del Hoyo et al.
. Males form leks after sunset (del Hoyo et al.
from May to July, each lek holding 5-30 males (Johnsgard 1981)
. 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.
. It is generally solitary on migration although groups of up to 10 have been recorded (Cramp and Simmons 1983)
. On the non-breeding grounds it is also predominantly solitary but sometimes occurs in small scattered flocks (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It usually forages singly or in small groups (del Hoyo et al.
. The return northward migration occurs on a broad front across Africa between March and April (del Hoyo et al.
. 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. Habitat Breeding
Nesting habitats include flood-plain and tussock meadows, natural fens with scattered bushes and peatlands up to 1,200 m (J. Ash in litt.
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.
. 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). Non-breeding
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.
. 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.
. 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). Diet
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.
. Breeding site
The nest is a shallow depression with a slight lining of grass or moss (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It is situated on the ground or on grassy tussocks in swamps (Johnsgard 1981). It is often completely concealed in thick vegetation (del Hoyo et al.
but may be fairly exposed (Johnsgard 1981). Threats
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.
, 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)
, 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 actions underway
CMS Appendix II. An international single species action plan was published in 2004 (R. Ekblom in litt
. 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 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
Johnsgard, P. A. 1981. The plovers, sandpipers and snipes of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, U.S.A. and London.
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.
Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
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.
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.
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.
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 accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).
Hear sounds for this species from xeno-canto, the community database of shared bird sounds from around the world.
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.
Ash, J., Baha El Din, S., Ekblom, R., Hall, P., Kålås, J., Morozov, V.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Gallinago media. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 19/06/2013.
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