Madagascar Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla


Justification of Red List category
This species is classified as Vulnerable as its population is suspected to be undergoing moderately rapid declines owing to wetland modification and hunting.

Population justification
The total population was previously estimated at 1,800-7,500 individuals (F. Hawkins in litt. 2002). However, the population size is likely to lie in the upper end of this estimate (R. Safford pers. comm. 2010), hence the population is suspected to fall in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is inferred to be declining owing to wetland modification and hunting pressures. Kull (2012) estimated that between 1950-1994, 60% of wetlands were lost in Madagascar, roughly equating to a loss rate of 25% over three generations (13.5 years [Bird et al. 2020]). Additionally, this species is threatened by hunting; therefore the overall rate of decline is suspected to fall in the band of 30-49% over three generations. There is no evidence of these threats ceasing, so the rate of decline is suspected to continue into the future.

Distribution and population

Gallinago macrodactyla is found in the humid eastern half of Madagascar, from sea-level up to 2,700 m, being more common above 700 m (Langrand 1990; Morris and Hawkins 1998). It has been recorded from Tsaratanana in the north to Madena in the south-east, and from the eastern coast to the Sakay river on the western side of the central plateau (R. Safford in litt. 2009). It has also been recorded on Ile Sante Marie (R. Safford in litt. 2009). It is uncommon (Langrand 1990), but may be locally common at some sites (R. Safford in litt. 2009), and although the total population has been estimated at 1,800-7,500 individuals (F. Hawkins in litt. to Wetlands International 2002), the true population size is likely to be at the higher end of this estimate (R. Safford pers. comm. 2010).


Behaviour This species is presumed to be sedentary, and breeding has been observed during the months of July-January (del Hoyo et al. 1996), with clutches of probably two eggs (Safford 2013). During the non-breeding season it is fairly gregarious and often observed foraging in small groups of 4-8 individuals (Langrand 1990).
It inhabits dense vegetation and muddy areas, including grassy and sedge-covered marshes and swamps, muddy shores of lakes and watercourses, flooded fields and sometimes rice-paddies (Langrand 1990; del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding has been recorded in a grassy swamp with dry hummocks (Johnsgard 1981).
It feeds on invertebrates, seeds and plants (Langrand 1990).
Breeding site
The nest is placed in a dense tuft of grass in or adjacent to marshland (Langrand 1990). One nest has been described, and it consisted of a depression in a dry hummock, scantily lined with grass (Johnsgard 1981).


The species is threatened by the increasing conversion of wetland-edge habitat to rice cultivation (Langrand 1990). The species is also threatened by hunting (Langrand 1990; van Gils et al. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Malagasy government has ratified the Ramsar Convention, which came into force for the country in 1999, and this may herald improved conservation measures for wetlands. New protected areas have been established which may benefit this species, including at the Tsaratanana-Marojejy corridor and Lake Alaotra (Razafindrajao et al. 2017).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Obtain an up-to-date population estimate, and develop monitoring to establish population trends. Monitor rates of habitat loss. Study the impact of hunting on the species. Discourage and control hunting as appropriate. Protect important wetland sites.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Hawkins, F., Khwaja, N., O'Brien, A., Rabenandrasana, M., Safford, R., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Gallinago macrodactyla. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.