Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
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General Comments As with a few other species, the snipe has gone back and forth with common names. Fifty years or more ago, our snipe species name was the Wilson's Snipe, but then it was merged with the widespread Eurasian taxon into the Common Snipe. However, in 2003, the American Ornithologists' Union split the North American taxon back out as a separate species, again with the name of Wilson's Snipe. This is a widespread bird across the state in migration and winter, but because it tends to favor damp grassy cover, it can be easily overlooked anywhere the vegetation is over just a few inches high! Favored habitats are wet pastures; short grass at the margins of freshwater pools, ponds, and marshes; vegetated ditches; and other "boggy" places, where the birds can blend into the background. It avoids salt water, but it can be found in slightly brackish situations.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient and winter resident. Fairly common migrant and in winter across the entire province, though somewhat less numerous in the northern portions by midwinter (as populations presumably move southward in very cold weather). Can be common for brief periods in migration, but normally not in midwinter. Mostly mid-Sept to late Apr, but not rare by late Aug, and into mid-May. One photographed at Mattamuskeet NWR (Hyde) on 28 Jun 2020 was out of season. Peak counts: 335, Alligator River NWR CBC, 30 Jan 2011; 300, North River area (Carteret), 30 Nov 2005; 232, Gull Rock Game Land (Hyde), 30 Nov 1983; 210, Rocky Mount, 31 Oct 1999.
Piedmont Transient and winter resident. Uncommon to fairly common in fall, and generally fairly common in spring. Uncommon to locally fairly common in winter along the eastern and southern portion of the province, but uncommon over most of the province in winter (especially in the extreme northwest). Can be difficult to find in severe winters. Mostly late Aug or early Sep to early May. Two birds at Jordan Lake on 10 Jun 1980 are most unusual, but there is no hint of nesting in the state. Peak counts: 225, Pee Dee NWR CBC, 28 Dec 2015; 200, Greenview Farm near Raleigh, 18 Mar 1972; 100, same location, 28 Mar 1975.
Mountains Transient, and very scarce winter resident/visitor. Generally rare to uncommon in migration, more frequent in spring, though only uncommon at best. Rare in winter, and perhaps not regularly over-wintering; mostly at lower elevations. Mainly early Sep to early May. Peak counts: 65, Van Wingerden pond along NC 191 (Henderson), 11 Mar 2013.
Finding Tips Snipes are not normally too hard to find, but they may need to be looked for specifically, by walking in wet pastures, along grassy ditches, and along pond shores, and flushing the birds. They remain motionless, often crouched, on the ground, and can be difficult to spot until nearly stepped on, when they utter their characteristic, harsh "ehh" or "ahh" note as they flush. It is missed on most trips to suitable habitat, owing to their ability to hide in short grasses and to the hesitancy of most people to walk in damp or wet ground to flush them; you may need a spotting scope to carefully scan wet margins of pools, ponds, and marshes.
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Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-11], LeGrand[2020-10-20], LeGrand[2016-09-28]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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