A medium-sized wader, Snipe live in marshes, wet grassland and moorlands, where they nest in simple scrapes. They use their long, probing bill to find insects, earthworms and crustaceans in the mud, typically swallowing prey whole. During the breeding season, the males can be heard making a unique ‘drumming’ sound as their tail feathers vibrate in the wind during rapid descents in flight displays.
How to identify
Fairly unmistakeable. The larger woodcock is a bird of woodlands while the Snipe is found on grasslands and moorlands and is smaller with a shorter bill. Snipe are brown with an intricate pattern of black and gold stripes and bars and a stripy-brown and gold head. They have short, greyish-green legs and a very long, straight bill.
Where to find it
Widespread, a fairly uncommon breeding bird but common winter visitor, found on wet grassland and marshes.
When to find it
How can people help
From 1982 to 2002 there was a 62% reduction in the number of breeding snipe in England and Wales - a significant decline mirrored in many of our wading birds. Wetland birds have suffered immensely from changing agricultural practices, land drainage and development but The Wildlife Trusts are working with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.
The BBOWT Bernwood Forest project will enhance and recreate the woodland, meadow and hedgerow habitats across five BBOWT nature reserves on the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire border. One of the species which will benefit from this work is snipe. Two other large-scale projects are the Upper Thames Living Landscape and the Upper River Ray Living Landscape. Both of these projects aim to enhance and recreate habitats too, linking them with 'corridors' for wildlife. Snipe may be seen within both these project areas at Chimney Meadows and at Upper Ray Meadows. You may also spot these birds at College Lake and Oxey Mead.