Great Snipe Gallinago media


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is thought to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing primarily to habitat loss and degradation, as well as hunting pressure; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd. Any evidence that the decline is more rapid may qualify the species for uplisting to a higher threat category.

Population justification
Its population size is poorly known, with estimates varying from c. 118,000–1,051,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012) to 450,000–1,000,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt. 2007). The European population is estimated at 62,500-145,000 calling or lekking males, which equates to 125,000-291,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The overall trend is thought to be decreasing. Recently published data suggests that the European breeding population has probably declined overall by only c. 5–15% over the last three generations (14.4 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 4.8 years) (BirdLife International 2015). This trend is driven by the Russian population, which comprises >80% of the European population and is estimated to have declined by c. 5–10% during 2001–2012. Many national populations in central and eastern Europe are still declining (e.g. Belarus has lost several lek sites Mongin and Davidyonok 2014). Data from Asian Russia is limited but it is thought that the population there may be declining (R. Ekblom in litt. 2015, V. Morozov per A. Mischenko in litt. 2015), and overall a moderately rapid reduction is still suspected.

Distribution and population

This species breeds primarily in Russia, east to 95°E (150,000-250,000 males), with large numbers in Belarus (4,600-6,000 males) and Norway (5,000-15,000 males [13,500 males Østnes et al. 2014]). It also breeds in Poland (300-350 males [or up to 400-500 males, Chodkiewicz et al. 2015]), Finland (2-17 males), Sweden (1,300-2,300 males), Estonia (450-550 males), Latvia (200-300 males), Lithuania (100-150 males), Ukraine (500-700 males) and Kazakhstan (BirdLife International 2015). Estimates for the total population size vary from c. 118,000–1,051,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012) to 450,000–1,000,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt. 2007). It should be noted that the estimation of effective breeding populations from numbers of lekking males is difficult as possibly only 50% of males obtain matings (J. A. Kålås in litt. 2007).

From early August, it migrates through central Asia, central and south-eastern Europe (notably Turkey and Cyprus) Tunisia and Egypt, with birds gathering in wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia (J. Ash in litt. 1999). When these dry out in October, birds follow the rains south and west to Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Namibia. Its range has contracted and numbers have declined since the late 19th century.


It breeds from early-May to early-July and nests solitarily, although it has a polygamous mating system (del Hoyo et al. 1996, J. A. Kålås in litt. 2016). Nesting habitats include flood-plain and tussock meadows, natural fens with scattered bushes and peatlands up to 1,200 m (J. Ash in litt. 1999) in lowland interior taiga and wooded tundra (Cramp and Simmons 1983). In the Scandinavian mountains it breeds along the tree line. It shows a preference for habitats rich in sub-surface invertebrates and medium density scrub cover for nesting, often in wide river valleys (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Although generally associated with moist to wet terrain, it is tolerant of wooded, and occasionally well-drained sites that adjoin bogs/fens or marshes (Cramp and Simmons 1983, M. Korniluk in litt. 2016). A considerable area of marshy ground may be essential for display purposes (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Many sites are fringed with willow Salix, alder Alnus and birch Betula growing as scrub or woodland, or burnt areas in course of regrowth (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It may favour areas where the ground is covered with mosses, lichens and dead and decaying leaves (Johnsgard 1981). Juveniles are often found around springs in steppe, or even in wheatfields (Cramp and Simmons 1983). 
The departure from the breeding grounds occurs from early-August onwards, with the species arriving on its wintering grounds just after the rainy season (del Hoyo et al. 1996). During this migration it performs a long non-stop flight of up to 6900 km (though some individuals have short stopovers in Europe) usually with the first long stopover in Sahel zone (Klaassen et al. 2011, Lindström et al. 2016). On migration it occurs in drier meadows but also on sedge marshes with G. gallinago. It may gather on wet high-plateau grasslands in Ethiopia (J. Ash in litt. 1999) before these dry out in October, after which it follows the rains south and west (del Hoyo et al.1996)
Birds from the western part of the breeding distribution over-winter in the lower stretches of the Congo River (Lindström et al. 2016) while birds from the eastern part of its breeding distribution show lower connectivity during the non-breeding season, with its wintering grounds being widely distributed from west Africa through to north Angola (Korniluk et al. 2015). During the winter it frequents wetland areas, including marshlands and short grass or sedges on lake edges or in flooded fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is also found in drier habitats such as moorland, sand dunes (Johnsgard 1981), tracks in wooded areas, in plough furrows and occasionally at puddles on dirt roads or in old cultivation (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Its diet consists predominantly of earthworms as well as gastropods, adult and larval terrestrial insects (beetles, tipulids), and the seeds of marsh plants (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The return northward migration occurs on a broad front across Africa between March and April (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The southern breeding birds go directly to their breeding grounds, while the northern breeding birds make short stopovers in Europe before they reach their northerly breeding grounds, probably using more southern roosting sites while waiting for the breeding areas to become available in early June (Lindström et al. 2016).


Rapid declines in the southern forest and forest-steppe zones of Russia and Ukraine are largely a result of the destruction and deterioration of nesting habitats. The main causes of habitat loss are conversion to intensive agriculture (Kålås et al. 1997), wetland drainage and the submergence of river valleys during the creation of reservoirs. Habitat overgrowth due to land abandonment and eutrophication may be a considerable threat in the eastern population (J. A. Kålås in litt. 2016 M. Korniluk in litt. 2016). It is also hunted in eastern Europe and in its wintering range (Kålås 2003, C. Zöckler in litt. 2015), with reports of several thousands killed in just 15-20 days in Amasia, Armenia (L. Balyan in litt. 2008). Habitat loss due to climate change may represent the most severe threat to the Scandinavian population (R. Ekblom in litt. 2007, J. A. Kålås in litt. 2007). 

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. An international single species action plan was published in 2004 (Kålås 2004). National action plans for this species have been published for several countries, including Sweden, Estonia, Ukraine, Latvia and Poland (R. Ekblom in litt. 2007, M. Korniluk in litt. 2016). Conservation actions to re-wet the Vinogradovo Floodplain, Moscow Region are underway (Mischenko et al. 2014), and several dedicated habitat restoration projects have been conducted, or are continuing, in several range states (M. Korniluk in litt. 2016). Work has been conducted to investigate the migratory behaviour of this species, and investigate potential site usage (see Klaassen et al. 2011, Lindström et al. 2016).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Establish coordinated monitoring programmes in all countries within the species's distribution range to monitor trends. Research population numbers and trends in Russia. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Increase the area of suitable habitat with protected status. Investigate the impact of climate change on the species and determine mitigation measures. Work with farmers and land managers to ensure the use of favourable land management. Initiate changes in agricultural practices through EU and national policies.


Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Malpas, L., Ashpole, J, Westrip, J., O'Brien, A., Taylor, J., Pilgrim, J., Capper, D., Butchart, S.

Korniluk, M., Mischenko, A., Kålås, J., Ekblom, R., Morozov, V., Raudonikis, L., Zöckler, C., Hall, P., Ash, J., Baha El Din, S., Lindström, Å.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Gallinago media. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/11/2020.