Wilson’s Snipe

Gallinago delicata
Range Map

Until 2003, we called the Wilson’s Snipe the Common Snipe. These birds breed over much of northern USA and to the Arctic tundra. We believe the norther Rocky Mountain states and the Pacific Northwest host these birds year-round, while most of their population migrates after breeding the to southern half of the USA, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and northern South America.

Today, science regards the Wilson’s Snipe as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

The winnowing sounds made during flight are memorable, though not a vocalization. Rather, it is wind, while flying at 25 miles per hour, over the outer tail feathers that causes this sound. When Wilson’s Snipe put their minds to it, they can fly at speeds up to sixty miles per hour.

Like other shorebird species with long bills, these birds can open and close the tips of their bills while probing the mud at full depths, and consume their invertebrate prey while they their buried bills are deep in the mud.

I met my first Wilson’s Snipe in December 2004 at the Salton Sea. Since then I’ve enjoyed meetings in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and various California locations, including in the creeks of my Poway hometown.

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