South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Wilson's Snipe

Gallinago delicata

Length: 10 inches Wingspan: 18 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Long bill, longitudinal stripes on head, barring on flanks, short legs.

Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago gallinagoThe Wilson's Snipe is a secretive, usually solitary bird of dense freshwater marshes and brushy streamsides.  During breeding season, they are most often seen when disturbed, and flush in a quick, zig-zag flight.  However, they can be quite tame and approachable in migration through the state.  The extremely long bill has a flexible tip which is used to forage for prey as it probes in soft mud.  They were formerly known as the Common Snipe, but were split from a very similar Eurasian species after they were found to be distinct. 

Habitat: Freshwater marshes, brushy borders of ponds and streams.

Diet: Takes large numbers of insects, insect larvae, and earthworms.  Also crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, tadpoles, leeches, and some vegetation.

Behavior: Uses its flexible and sensitive bill tip to probe in mud, capturing food underground.  Will also collect food items from the ground, foliage, or the water's surface.

Nesting: May and June

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey Map

Song: Produces non-vocal "winnowing", a hooting trill in flight caused by vibrations of outer tail feathers. 

Migration: Summers throughout much of Canada, Alaska, and the northern U.S.  Winters from the southern half of the United States all the way through South America.

Similar Species: American Woodcock, Long-Billed Dowitcher, Short-Billed Dowitcher.

Conervation Status: Widespread and fairly common, although its secretive nature makes status somewhat unknown in areas.  Loss of habitat has hurt populations in some areas.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Wilson's Snipe

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Wilson's Snipe

3) Wilson's Snipe

Photo Information: April 12th, 2003 -- Madison Waterfowl Production Area -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Wilson's Snipe photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Wilson's Snipe - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant statewide.  Uncommon summer breeding resident.  Local in winter.