While searching for Virginia rails and sora earlier this summer between the North and South Elkins barns at Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA), Leonard and I also encountered many Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata). Although snipe are usually very elusive and difficult to photograph because they sleep much of the day, only feeding at dusk and dawn, and are fast, erratic fliers, these snipe were too busy enjoying their first meal of the day to be bothered by a couple early-morning hikers with a camera. I got many interesting pictures and want to share a couple.
I previously wrote about these chunky shorebirds that are intricately-patterned in shades of brown with three long white/buffy stripes on their backs and striped heads (“Wilson’s Snipe” on 07-03-2013), so will not repeat myself. Instead I will share a couple interesting facts not mentioned previously.
Wilson’s snipe have very large pectoral (breast) muscles that account for about a quarter of their weight. Because of these huge flight muscles Wilson’s snipe can fly up to 60 MPH. Those muscles also help in their migration from their breeding grounds in the Northern United States and Canada to the Southern United States, Central America and Northern South America where they winter.
Like killdeer, Wilson’s snipe also will feign injury to distract an intruder by falling to the ground, flopping on their side or breast and beating their wings when they sense danger to their nests, eggs or chicks.
Unfortunately, cooperative birds are not the norm so I was happy to get this opportunity to add to my Wilson’s snipe photographic album.