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October 20, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Wilson’s Snipe

Within the next few weeks the majority of the fall migrants will have departed Illinois for their winter residences. While most of the warblers have already moved on, I’m still seeing a lot of sparrows and an occasional unexpected visitor like the Rusty Blackbird, which is currently on the Audubon Watchlist for vulnerable species.

Last week I literally stumbled across a snipe. This is another bird I did not expect to see at a small pond along a nature trail in a residential area. I had left the main path and was walking through the brush towards the pond and came within a few feet of stepping on it. It’s color blended so well I didn’t see the bird until it flushed out of the grass. When I saw that long beak I knew it wasn’t one of the usual residents. Of course I wasn’t leaving until I found the bird and eventually I located the snipe who was standing on the far side of the pond almost out of range of my zoom lens.

A Snipe is a medium-sized shorebird and is common over most of North America. It spends the summer in Canada and the northern US and migrates to the southern US and Mexico for the winter. It’s a year-round resident in a few areas in the northwest.

It has a very long, flexible bill that it uses to probe in the mud for small invertebrates. It eats larval insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, some vegetation and seeds.

Interesting Facts

  • The Wilson’s Snipe is one of the few shorebirds that can still be hunted legally.
  • An elusive bird that’s difficult to hunt, the snipe led to the use of the word sniper in terms of a sharpshooter in the early 19th century.
  • The clutch size of the Wilson’s Snipe is almost always four eggs. The male snipe takes the first two chicks to hatch and leaves the nest with them. The female takes the last two and cares for them. Apparently the parents have no contact after that point.
  • The Common Snipe is found in Europe and Asia and looks almost identical the North American Wilson’s Snipe. Until recently they were considered the same species.


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



  1. Christine Harding / Oct 20 2012 2:34 am

    I knew snipe were hunted once, but didn’t make the connection with the word sniper. Obvious when you think about though. My Snapshot is a lighthouse without a light!


  2. Louise / Oct 20 2012 3:58 am

    I always learn something from your posts. I didn’t know about snipe/sniper either. I’m really enjoying your series on the migrating birds.


    • Leslie / Oct 20 2012 10:12 am

      I didn’t make the sniper connection either until I researched the bird after I took the photo.


  3. Cipriano / Oct 20 2012 3:59 am

    That is, indeed, a gorgeous bird, and plethora of bill going on.
    The colorings are gorgeous….. he/she is doing a lot with simple brown and white.


  4. BermudaOnion / Oct 20 2012 5:07 am

    I don’t think I’ve seen one of those – I feel sure I’d remember that beak.


    • Leslie / Oct 20 2012 10:11 am

      It’s a bird that doesn’t like to be found. Perhaps because they are hunted… or maybe they’re reclusive by nature.


  5. laurelrainsnow / Oct 20 2012 7:16 am

    Wow, that bill is impressive! And it sounds like it’s very useful. Thanks for sharing….and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST


  6. Arti / Oct 20 2012 9:12 am

    I’ve seen the Wilson Snipe on in a bird book, but this is the first time seeing a real one, albeit on a photo. 🙂 I’ve been exploring new birding sites in my neck of the wood, and have seen something I haven’t before and that’s the male and female Red Crossbill. They are a beautiful pair, male’s orange, female’s yellow. I should show you the photos some other time. But today, I’ve something different.


    • Leslie / Oct 20 2012 10:10 am

      That was the first time I’d seen one in person too. I was pretty sure it was a snipe but I’m glad I got a photo so I could verify it with my bird guide. They are so elusive and difficult to see. This one went right back into the brush and I couldn’t find it again.


  7. Barbara / Oct 20 2012 9:12 am

    Lovely that you were able to capture his photo! Thanks for posting so much info on your bird sitings. I am a bird watcher too ! Still so much to learn though!


  8. Arti / Oct 20 2012 9:14 am

    The words ‘on’ meant to be ‘only’ in the above comment. Sorry for the typos.


  9. Ginny / Oct 20 2012 11:12 am

    I love your weekly bird pictures. I thought you might think I was trying to compete with my photos this week! I did have a job getting them to stay still on the tree.


  10. Sim@chapter1-take1 / Oct 20 2012 11:31 am

    How cool to know the derivation of the word ‘sniper’ . Completely unexpected! Thanks.


  11. Suko / Oct 20 2012 12:22 pm

    Interesting to learn about a word in this post, as well as a bird! Lovely photo, as always.


  12. Bev@My Reader's Block / Oct 20 2012 1:26 pm

    A great shot of an unusual bird. Love learning about new birds from you! Here’s my Saturday Snapsot.


  13. irene / Oct 20 2012 2:02 pm

    You’re very brave, stumbling about in bushes looking for birds. I’m a little afeared.


  14. Sheila (Book Journey) / Oct 20 2012 2:08 pm

    Seems like I learn something every time I visit your blog 😉


  15. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Oct 20 2012 4:06 pm

    He’s so cute! I love the variety of length and shape of the shorebirds!


  16. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Oct 20 2012 7:03 pm

    Woe, what a long bill! Very cute,


  17. Kaye / Oct 21 2012 8:16 am

    I always love your photos. The snipe’s bill almost looks too long for his size. Very interesting shot.


  18. Paulita / Oct 21 2012 11:26 am

    I think there is a common college joke about going on a snipe hunt for city kids who come to Midwestern colleges. Glad to know there is actually a bird called a snipe. Here’s Mine


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