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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Snipe -- Gallinago gallinago


RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska and northern Yukon to southern Keewatin, northern Quebec, and central Labrador, south to central California, east-central Arizona, and northern Colorado across to northern West Virginia, New England, and the Maritime Provinces. Winters from southeastern Alaska, southern British Columbia, the central United States, and Virginia south to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits wetlands, especially fens, bogs, swamps, and marshes, primarily in peatlands scattered within the spruce, fir, and larch boreal forest. Occupies areas with fairly dense, low woody growth such as willows and alders, and with a ground cover of sphagnum, sedges, and grasses, preferably near open pastures or other clearings. Also inhabits areas of decomposed wet plant litter along ponds, meandering rivers and brooks, and other marshy sites. In winter it occupies wet, marshy habitats, wet meadows, flooded fields, and stream edges.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Bogs, fens, and swamps with moist organic soils near open areas free of obstacles or high vegetation that might interfere with display activities.

NEST: Nests in a scrape on fairly dry ground or in a tussock of grass or sedge, usually in wet habitats but occasionally at the edge of wetlands. Conceals nest, sometimes covering it with an arch of dry vegetation.

FOOD: Forages by probing in soft mud and shallow water, and by gleaning grasses and the surfaces of marsh plants. Diet consists primarily of animal foods including insects, crayfish, crabs, earthworms, and mollusks. Also eats some seeds.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Fogarty and Arnold 1977, Palmer 1967, Sperry 1940, Tuck 1972.


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