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Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
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.
Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Taxonomic note
Gallinago gallinago (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into G. gallinago and G. delicata by Banks et al. (2002), on the basis of 'differences in the winnowing display sounds and morphology', and recognised as separate by AOU (2002) and SACC (2005), but this treatment is not followed by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group because the morphological differences are limited to the number and width of tail feathers and, as Mueller (1999) makes clear, there is overlap between the two forms in these characters. Although the differences between gallinago and delicata drumming have been described as 'strong', it is not clear that these do not come from the two ends of a Holarctic 'ring' (eastern USA and western Europe). The BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group therefore favours non-recognition of delicata as a species, pending playback experiments and more information from areas of reported breeding in areas of local sympatry.

Distribution and population
This species has a large global population estimated to be >5,400,000-7,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.6,300,000-8,100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs, c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in China; c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan; c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in Korea; c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Japan and c.10,000-1 million breeding pairs and >c.1,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007) In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline (p<0.01), based on provisional data for 21 countries from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands; P. Vorisek in litt. 2008).

Behaviour This species is fully migratory although some populations only migrate short distances (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds from April to August (Hayman et al. 1986) in solitary territorial pairs and after breeding it moves to moulting areas before migrating south to the wintering grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is not a truly gregarious species (Snow and Perrins 1998) although it usually forages in small groups (del Hoyo et al. 1996), occasionally also gathering in larger flocks of several hundred during migration or in the winter (Hayman et al. 1986). The species is also generally crepuscular in its activities (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat Breeding The species breeds on fresh or brackish marshland with rich or tussocky vegetation (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) including grassy or marshy edges of lakes and rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1996), marshy bogs and moors (Johnsgard 1981), marshy tundra, wet meadows (del Hoyo et al. 1996), peat bogs, fens, swamps (North America) (Johnsgard 1981) and swampy forest (Flint et al. 1984). Non-breeding In its wintering range the species frequents similar habitats to those it breeds in (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) including permanent and temporary swamps, the marshy edges of lakes and dams, flooded sedge and grassland (Grishanov 2006), also utilising more artificial habitats such as damp farmland (Hayman et al. 1986) (e.g. cattle pastures, sugar-cane fields (Johnsgard 1981), rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996)), sewage farms (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and drainage ditches (Johnsgard 1981). The species may also move to more coastal areas such as the upper reaches of estuaries and coastal meadows (del Hoyo et al. 1996) during periods of frost (Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Its diet consists of adult and larval insects, earthworms, small crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (e.g. isopods and amphipods) (Johnsgard 1981), small gastropods, spiders (del Hoyo et al. 1996), small amphibians (Africa) (Grishanov 2006) and occasionally plant fibres, seeds and grit (Johnsgard 1981). Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape (Snow and Perrins 1998) positioned on dry ground in marshes, fens, swamps and bogs (Johnsgard 1981) (e.g. on a mound or sedge tuft) (Flint et al. 1984) in the cover of grass, rushes, sedge or sphagnum moss (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species nests in solitary territorial pairs at densities of between 10 and 38 or up to 110 pairs per kilometre (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information Studies in Danish coastal wetlands found that the spatial restriction of shore-based shooting was more successful at maintaining waterfowl population sizes than was the temporal restriction of shooting, and therefore that wildfowl reserves should incorporate shooting-free refuges that include adjacent marshland in order to ensure high waterbird species diversity (Bregnballe et al. 2004). The species is known to show increased hatching successes when ground predators have been excluded by erecting protective fences around nesting areas (Jackson 2001). At a reserve in the UK management strategies such as reseeding grasslands to be dominated by rushes Juncus spp. and purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea, mechanical cutting and grazing, digging small scrapes and maintaining high water-levels succeeded in attracting an increased number of breeding pairs to the area (Holton and Allcorn 2006). The annual success of reproduction is estimated every year by wing surveys in Denmark since the 1970s and in France since the mid-1990s (Clausager 2006). Hunting bags are estimated every year in Denmark (Clausager 2006).

The species is threatened by habitat changes such as wetland drainage (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and grassland improvement (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (e.g. through drainage, inorganic fertilising and reseeding) (Baines 1988). Important migratory stop-over habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia are also threatened by petroleum pollution, wetland and flood-plain drainage (for irrigation and water management), peat-extraction, reedbed mowing and burning, and abandonment and changing land management practices leading to scrub and reed overgrowth (Grishanov 2006). The species suffers from lead poisoning as a result of ingesting lead shot deposited on wetlands (Mateo et al. 1998, Mondain-Monval et al. 2002, Olivier 2006), suffers nest predation by introduced mammals (e.g. European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus) on islands (Jackson 2001), and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the viurs (Melville and Shortridge 2006). Utilisation The species is hunted for sport (e.g. in Denmark) (Bregnballe et al. 2006).

Baines, D. 1988. The effects of improvement of upland grassland on the distribution and density of breeding wading birds (Charadriiformes) in northern England. Biological Conservation 45: 221-236.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Bregnballe, T.; Madsen, J., Rasmussen, P. A. F. 2004. Effects of temporal and spatial hunting control in waterbird reserves. Biological Conservation 119: 93-104.

Bregnballe, T.; Noer, H.; Christensen, T. K.; Clausen, P.; Asferg, T.; Fox, A. D.; Delany, S. 2006. Sustainable hunting of migratory waterbirds: the Danish approach. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 854-860. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Butler, C. J. 2003. The disproportionate effect of global warming on the arrival dates of short-distance migratory birds in North America. Ibis 145: 484-495.

Clausager, I. 2006. Wing survey of Woodcock and Snipe in Denmark. International Wader Studies 11: 106-112.

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

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Flint, V. E.; Boehme, R. L.; Kostin, Y. V.; Kuznetsov, A. A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, A. J. 1986. Shorebirds. Croom Helm, London.

Holton, N.; Allcorn, R. I. 2006. The effectiveness of opening up rush patches on encouraging breeding common snipe Gallinago gallinago at Rogersceugh Farm, Campfield Marsh RSPB reserve, Cumbria, England. Conservation Evidence 3: 79-80.

Jackson, D. B. 2001. Experimental Removal of Introduced Hedgehogs Improves Wader Nest Success in the Western Isles, Scotland. Journal of Applied Ecology 38(4): 802-812.

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

Mateo, R.; Belliure, J.; Dolz, J. C.; Aguilar-Serrano, J. M.; Guitart, R. . 1998. High prevalences of lead poisoning in wintering waterfowl in Spain. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 35: 342-347.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Mondain-Monval, J. Y.; Desnouhes, L.; Taris, J. P. 2002. Lead shot ingestion in waterbirds in the Camargue, (France). Game and Wildlife Science 19(3): 237-246.

Olivier, G-N. 2006. Considerations on the use of lead shot over wetlands. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 866-867. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Vahatalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

Yarovikova, J. 2006. The state and conservation problems of key stop-over sites of migratory Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 355. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

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

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Fisher, S., Malpas, L.

Ferrand, Y.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Gallinago gallinago. Downloaded from on 14/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 14/07/2014.

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 - Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and allies)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 9,570,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species