The Gallinago Gallinago is a superbly camouflaged bird, most often seen fleeing erratically after being flushed from its concealed location. This skulking bird has crytically patterned, mottled brown upperparts, with pale stripes on the back and dark streaks on the chest, and paler underparts. The sexes are alike, although the female may have a slightly longer bill, but the juvenile’s wing feathers are fringed with cream. This medium-sized wading bird has short legs, long wings and a short tail, but the most obvious feature of the common snipe, however, is its greatly elongated bill used to probe for invertebrate prey in soft ground. During the breeding season, the male common snipe may also be identified by its unique ‘drumming’ sound when, during a rapid descent from a great height, modified outer tail-feathers vibrate rapidly in the wind, emitting a distinct throbbing noise.

The common snipe is a widespread wetland bird that breeds at northern latitudes and migrates southwards before the onset of winter. During the breeding season, this elusive bird may be found throughout Alaska and Canada and the west of the United States, and from Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and the United Kingdom, east towards northern Russia and south to northern Spain, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine, southern Siberia and northern China. At other times of the year, it may also be found in Central America, northern South America, sub-Saharan Africa, central and southern Europe, and South and Southeast Asia. Some populations, however, such as those in the western United States and western Europe, may remain at the same location year-round.

During the breeding season, the common snipe inhabits fresh and brackish marshlands with a combination of grassy cover and rich, moist soils, often at the edges of lakes, rivers and swamps. Outside the breeding season, it inhabits similar areas, but with more use of artificial habitats, such as wet farmland and drainage ditches, and coastal areas, including the upper reaches of estuaries.

In Europe, there has been a long history of land management practices aimed at improving the availability of nesting and foraging habitat for the common snipe so that it can be hunted sustainably. Typically, the water levels of wetlands are regulated and vegetation is cut or burnt, increasing the area of shallow water in which it can forage. The common snipe is also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, which aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range. Furthermore, it is also listed under the associated African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement, which calls upon parties to engage in a range of conservation actions to help protect and conserve bird species that are dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle.

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