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Wilson's Snipe, Jared Hobbs
Photo © Jared Hobbs

Photo: Jared Hobbs
Breeding evidence - Wilson's Snipe
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Wilson's Snipe
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Wilson's Snipe
Elevation plot

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Wilson's Snipe
Gallinago delicata
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 1710 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
6
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
53 338 800 598
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 0.876 (-0.347 - 2.51)High
Canada1970 - 2012 1.05 (0.377 - 1.74)High

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.180.16 0.130.17 0.14
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.170.16 0.160.07 0.16
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.120.2 0.14  0.18

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
0.110.160.190.07
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
 0.090.120.13
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.16 0.110.19
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.050.210.270.17

Characteristics and Range The Wilson's Snipe is one of North America's most numerous shorebirds, but cryptic plumage and generally elusive behaviour combine to make it a difficult bird to see. In the breeding season, it performs a unique, spectacular territorial flight, giving away its presence with a rather haunting winnowing sound, made by the rapid vibration of its outer tail feathers as it dives through the air. It breeds across taiga, boreal, prairie and western montane regions of North America, migrating medium to long distances south to winter across the southern half of the continent, Central and northern South America. Always associated with wet or damp habitats, it is named for its long bill (snipe is derived from "snite", an old form of the word snout), which has sensory pits near the tip to detect prey when probing in mud (Mueller 1999).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Wilson's Snipe is widely distributed across northern and interior British Columbia east of the Coast Mountains, and more sparsely distributed in lowland coastal regions. Its range across the province has not changed since The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1990, but the Atlas surveys have greatly filled in the known breeding season distribution.

The Probability of Observation model indicates the most likely places to find it are on the wetland-studded plateaus of the Central and Sub-Boreal Interior ecoprovinces, and in the Fort Nelson and Liard river lowlands of the Taiga Plains Ecoprovince. However, abundance data from point counts indicate that abundance is relatively even across most regions, being slightly higher in the Central Interior (especially in the Sub-Boreal Pine-Spruce biogeoclimatic zone) and Northern Boreal Mountains. This is similar to the pattern noted in Campbell et al. (1990), who considered it most numerous in the central and southern interior, noting that it was widespread across the northern Boreal Forest. Snipe are most common between 500 and 1,250 m, the elevation range of their favoured interior plateaus and northeastern lowlands.

Snipe require damp or waterlogged soils to feed. They prefer open or light shrubby bog, fen and wet meadow or flooded grassland habitats with sedges (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae), usually avoiding marshes with taller, broader-leaved vegetation. The vast majority of records came from two biogeoclimatic zones, Sub-Boreal Spruce and Boreal White and Black Spruce, which both support abundant suitable habitat.

Conservation and Recommendations Population trends for the Wilson's Snipe are largely stable, and there are no major conservation concerns. There is still some limited hunting pressure, but much less than in the past, so this has at most a very local effect (Environment Canada 2011).

Peter J. A. Davidson

Recommended citation: Davidson, P.J.A. 2015. Wilson's Snipe in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=WISN&lang=en [16 Dec 2018]

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