Common snipe

Gallinago gallinago

Also called the "jacksnipe," the snipe is a small brownish bird of wetlands, meadows, and damp forest openings that uses its long bill to probe in wet soil for food. It is well known for its "winnowing" flight song over open areas during spring. Snipe migrate south for the winter.


General description: The snipe is not as stocky as its close relative, the woodcock, and has long legs and pointed wings like many shorebird species. A small bird with an erratic flight pattern composed of twists and dives.

Length: 10 to 11 inches, including the 2-inch bill.

Weight: 6 to 8 ounces, with females slightly heavier than males.

Color: Striped gray-brown on top, with gray undersides and an orange or rust-colored tail.


The males exhibit a unique flight courtship behavior by making a winnowing sound with their wings. About three weeks after breeding females hatch four well-developed young that grow to adult size in four weeks.


Snipe probe wet ground with their long beaks for worms, grubs, and insect larvae.


Snipe nest on the ground, and are preyed upon by a variety of small mammalian predators such as weasel, mink, and skunk, and by avian predators such as owls and hawks.

Common Snipe

Habitat and range

Snipe occur in all of Minnesota, but are most common in north-central forests and wet meadows. Often, they can be seen feeding along roads and trails at sunrise and sunset.

Population and management

Although there is a hunting season on snipe, not many hunters take them. Being a migratory bird, harvest management is by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fun facts

Have you ever been on a "snipe hunt" on summer camp evenings, or at an evening campfire? If so, you likely never caught a snipe, and stuffed it in the bag you carried! Snipe are alert, wild birds that can never be caught by hand. But weren't the snipe hunts fun, anyhow?

Range Map

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