Madagascar Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla


Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Vulnerable as it is estimated to have a small population which is undergoing a continuing decline owing to wetland modification and hunting. Up-to-date data is urgently needed for this species, as the population estimate is now nearly a decade out of date. Should the population prove to be lower than currently thought, the species may warrant uplisting in the future.

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 best placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals. This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to wetland modification and hunting pressures, though the rate of decline is unknown.

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 2 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). Habitat 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 Breeding has been recorded in a grassy swamp with dry hummocks (Johnsgard 1981). Diet 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). For example, at the largest block of suitable wetland habitat in Madagascar, Lake Alaotra, 250 km2 of the 350 km2 surrounding the lake are now under rice production (Edhem 1993, Pidgeon 1996). The species is also threatened by hunting (Langrand 1990).

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.

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

Hawkins, F., Safford, R., Rabenandrasana, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Gallinago macrodactyla. Downloaded from on 11/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 11/08/2020.