African Snipe Gallinago nigripennis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Trend justification
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the impacts of habitat modification on population sizes.


Behaviour This species is mainly sedentary (Hockey et al. 2005) although it is subject to local movements associated with the drying of temporary floods (Urban et al. 1986), sometimes moving several hundred kilometres away from nesting sites (del Hoyo et al. 1996). In East Africa it also descends to lower altitudes after breeding (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species is usually found feeding in small numbers or scattered groups (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and nesting solitarily (not closer than 30 m) (Hockey et al. 2005). It is also least active during the middle of the day (although it is not crepuscular) (Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat This species is always found associated with freshwater or brackish wetlands, and is typically found on vleis, marshes, highland bogs, wetlands around artificial water bodies, ditches, inland deltas (e.g. the flood plain of the Okavango River) (Hockey et al. 2005), swampy lake edges, seasonally flooded grasslands (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and wet moorlands (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It most frequently occurs at high altitudes (1,500 m in Ethiopia and north-east Africa, occasionally reaching up to 4,000 m) (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and typically nests at between 1,800-2,700 m in East Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996), although it can also be found on lowland wetlands inhabiting shallow estuaries and lagoons (Hockey et al. 2005). The species also favours soft muddy areas among shallowly flooded vegetation on which to feed (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). Diet The diet of this species mainly consists of the larvae of beetles, dragonflies and flies, annelid worms, small crustaceans, molluscs and sometimes seeds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest of this species is a pad of grass leaves hidden in a tuft of grass or fine rushes, surrounded by flooded or moist ground (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), often where grazing animals have opened up muddy patches and paths (Hockey et al. 2005).


This species is threatened by habitat loss and degradation in Kenya (such as decreases in the area of natural pasture, lake-edge and stream-edge marshes; agricultural expansions; and increases in the area of lake mudflats due to increased siltation and reduced water supply) owing to encroachment, overgrazing, burning and the drainage of wetland areas by peasant farmers (Gichuki et al. 2006). A population in Zimbabwe recently crashed after an extreme drought, and the species is may also be threatened by future outbreaks of avian botulism (Blaker 1967, Hockey et al. 2005).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Gallinago nigripennis. Downloaded from on 29/11/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2022.