Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola


Justification of Red List Category
This secretive snipe is estimated to have a small, declining population, as a result of the widespread loss of wetlands habitats in its breeding and wintering grounds. It may only occur in a single population and has precautionarily been treated as such here, therefore it qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, from analysis of a detailed account of recent records in BirdLife International (2001). This equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. Further documentation is desirable.

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of rates of habitat loss and the extent of apparent declines in traditional wintering areas in parts of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.

Distribution and population

Gallinago nemoricola breeds locally in the Himalayas of north-west and north-east India, Nepal, Bhutan and south-east Tibet, central Sichaun and perhaps Yunnan, China (BirdLife International 2001), as further suggested by a recent record from Pudacuo National Park (J. Fjeldså and A. Krištín in litt. 2011). In winter, it occurs at lower altitudes in the Himalayas, as a regular visitor in small numbers to northern Vietnam, and as a vagrant (or perhaps irregular visitor) to the hills of central and southern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, north Thailand and Laos. Historically, it was considered rare and local across much of its range. It appears to have declined in traditional wintering areas in parts of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, from where there have been few recent records. Its population in Nepal is estimated at fewer than 100 individuals (Inskipp et al. 2016), and its global population is estimated to include fewer than 10,000 mature individuals. The species is likely to be under-recorded in Nepal, as few birdwatchers visit its breeding areas at the right time of year (Inskipp et al. 2016).


It breeds from April through to June, in alpine meadows and marshes with scattered low bushes, or in dwarf scrub in barren, boulder-strewn areas, generally between 3,000 and 5,000 m, and at least occasionally down to 2,100 m, with one historical breeding record from 1,200 m. In winter, it frequents swampy ground in and at the edge of evergreen forest and marshy grassland and scrub, below 3,000 m, sometimes down to lowland plains (below 100 m). Populations are partially migratory, with some birds travelling from the Himalayas to south India.


During the early 20th century, hunting was probably a major cause of decline. It remains a local threat, particularly in China and South-East Asia. Habitat loss is now the key threat, with substantial losses and degradation of evergreen forest, wooded wetlands, marshes and swamps in its wintering areas as a result of drainage, clearance for tea plantations, and conversion to both commercial and shifting agriculture. In Nepal at least, the species is threatened by high grazing pressure from livestock in its breeding habitats of subalpine shrubland and grasslands between May and September, causing habitat degradation, disturbance and probably the trampling of nests (Inskipp et al. 2016). A high volume of tourist traffic to Langtang National Park was considered a threat to the species owing to the resultant habitat degradation and disturbance (C. Inskipp and H. Baral in litt. 2012). However, the National Park was badly damaged during the 2015 earthquakes and tourist number have dropped dramatically as a result of this and tourism is unlikely to be a concern in more remote protected areas in Nepal, at least for the foreseeable future (C. Inskipp and H. Baral in litt. 2012, 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. It has been recorded in numerous protected areas, but many are remote and lack sufficient resources to provide adequate protection. Amongst the most important are Wolong Biosphere Reserve (China), Langtang, Shey-Phoksundo, Makalu Barun and Sagarmatha National Parks, and Annapurna and Kanchenjunga Conservation Areas (Nepal) and Hoang Lien Nature Reserve (Vietnam). A survey for the species was carried out in Langtang National Park (Nepal) in March-June 2007 (Inskipp et al. 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct extensive surveys throughout its breeding and wintering ranges to establish its current distribution, status, seasonal movements and major threats. Identify key sites and campaign for their protection where appropriate. Research its ecological and habitat requirements, particularly its tolerance of habitat degradation in wintering areas. Promote conservation awareness campaigns to reduce hunting in and around protected areas known to support populations.


28-32 cm. Dark snipe. Relatively short and broad-based bill. Buff and blackish head-stripes, broad buff stripes on blackish mantle and scapulars. Warm buff neck and breast with brown streaking. Dense, dark bars on underwing-coverts. Greenish legs. Juvenile has whiter fringing on mantle and scapulars and pale buff fringes to median coverts. Similar spp. Solitary Snipe G. solitaria is smaller and less boldly marked with less striking head pattern, white spotting on ginger-brown breast and rufous barring on mantle and scapulars. Voice May give guttural croak or che-dep che-dep. On breeding-grounds, utters long series of nasal notes check-check-check and che-dep che-dep che-dep ip-ip-ip ock ock during display-flight. Hints When flushed, look for rounded wings and floppy flight.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Peet, N., Taylor, J., Davidson, P., Westrip, J., Tobias, J., Benstead, P.

Kristin, A., Inskipp, C., Baral, H., Dorji, K., Fjeldså, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Gallinago nemoricola. Downloaded from on 24/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/09/2020.