Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely 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 size is extremely large, and hence does not 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification

The total population is estimated to number over 4,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006). The European population alone has recently been estimated at 2,670,000-5,060,000 pairs, which equates to 5,350,000-10,100,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 35% of the species's global range therefore a very preliminary estimate of the species's global population size would be 15,000,000-29,000,000 mature individuals although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The overall population trend may be decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated to have experienced a moderate decline between 1980 and 2013 (EBCC 2015).


This species is mostly migratory, wintering in Europe and Africa. Some populations are sedentary or partially migratory, e.g. British Isles. The birds move quickly from breeding grounds to moulting areas, and after a few weeks quickly migrate to the wintering grounds. The species shows a high degree of site fidelity at staging sites. Birds wintering in the Afrotropics thought to be from Russia, crossing the Sahara on a broad front. European and Atlantic birds move to southern and western Europe. The species seems to have shifted its main moulting grounds from continental (particularly Netherlands) to Britain since late 1950s. Autumn passage is from late July to November, with arrival in Northern Africa mainly late September to early October. Most birds leave Africa for spring migration in March; crossing Europe from March to early May. The males typically arrive on the breeding grounds 10–14 days before the females. The species breeds in open fresh or brackish marshland with rich or tussocky vegetation, grassy or marshy edges of lakes and rivers, wet hay fields, swampy meadows and marshy tundra, in forest tundra and extreme northern taiga zones. The species breeds in general in areas providing combination of grassy cover and moist soils, rich in organic matter. Outside breeding season, generally occupies similar habitats, with more use of man-made habitats, e.g. sewage farms and rice fields, upper reaches of estuaries and coastal meadows. Its diet includes larval insects (10–80%), adult insects, earthworms, small crustaceans, small gastropods and spiders. Plant fibres and seeds are consumed in smaller quantities. It feeds by vertical and rhythmic probing in substrate, often without removing the bill from the soil. It typically forages in small groups. Laying April-June. Monogamous, but both sexes show high degree of promiscuity. Territorial; densities up to 10–38 (even 110) pairs/km2. Nest usually on dry spot, covered by grasses, rushes, sedges or sphagnum. High proportion of the nests may be predated or trampled by cattle (Van Gils et al. 2015).


The decline noted in breeding populations of Europe is probably chiefly due to habitat changes, especially drainage. In Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, a decline was observed from 13,000 pairs in 1970 to 1,500 in 1992. A very high decline of 99–100%, followed the improvement of marginal grasslands in northern England. Low water levels shorten the period of food availability in pastures, due to the lower penetrability of soil, and thereby strongly influence the length of breeding season. Changes in habitat structure and food abundance, which already negatively affect this (and many other) species might also lead to increased predation risks for nestlings. Careful manipulation of water levels may allow improvement of breeding success. Estimated 1,500,000 birds hunted annually in Europe (notably France) (Van Gils et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The following information refers to the species's European range only: The species is listed on Annex II (A) and III (B) of the EU Birds Directive.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Drainage of freshwater wetland habitats needs to be stopped and reversed. Marginal grasslands need to be restored.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Taylor, J., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Gallinago gallinago. Downloaded from on 06/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 06/12/2023.