Wilson's Snipe

Gallinago delicata
A Wilson's Snipe specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (11 inches) wader, Wilson’s Snipe is most easily identified by its mottled-brown back, long bill, and orange tail patches. Other field marks include a pale belly, black facial stripes, and dull green legs. Male and female Wilson’s Snipes are similar to one another in all seasons. Wilson’s Snipe breeds widely across Alaska, Canada, and the northern tier of the United States. Birds breeding in the Pacific Northwest, in the interior western U. S, and along the Great Lakes are non-migratory. Other populations migrate south for the winter, where they may be found from the south-central U.S. south into Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America. Wilson’s Snipes breed in freshwater marshes, swamps, and bogs with areas of marsh grasses for cover. This species utilizes similar habitats in winter as in summer. Wilson’s Snipes mainly eat insects and other small invertebrates. Wilson’s Snipes may be observed using their long bills to probe the mud for food. When flushed from a clump of marsh grasses, Wilson’s Snipes will explode into the air, flying in a zigzag pattern until it has reached safety. This species is active both during the day and at night, when it may feed.

DC Information

Common migrant early March to early May and mid-September to late November. Uncommon winter resident, December through March. Found in wet grassy areas, occasionally on mud flats. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC45549 Gallinago delicata (Wilson's Snipe)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31004 Gallinago delicata (Wilson's Snipe)