Common Snipe

©Fergus Gill/2020VISION


Scientific name: Gallinago gallinago
Listen out for the 'drumming' sound of a male Snipe as it performs its aerial courtship display. It's not a call, but actually its tail feathers beating in the wind. Snipe live on wet grassland, marshes and moorlands throughout the UK.

Species information


Length: 25-27cm
Wingspan: 46cm
Weight: 110g
Average lifespan: 3 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


A medium-sized wader, the Snipe lives in marshes, wet grassland and moorlands, where it nests in simple scrapes. It uses its long, probing bill to find insects, earthworms and crustaceans in the mud, typically swallowing prey whole. During the breeding season, males can be heard making a unique 'drumming' sound as their tail feathers vibrate in the wind as they perform their aerial courtship displays.

How to identify

Snipe are brown, with an intricate pattern of black and gold bars, and a stripy brown and gold head. They have short, greyish-green legs and a very long, straight bill. The Snipe is larger than the similar-looking Woodcock and is a bird of grasslands and moorlands, rather than woodlands.


Widespread; a fairly common breeding bird and winter visitor, found on wet grassland and marshes.

Did you know?

Snipe have a flexible tip to the beak that is full of nerves; this helps them to feel for worms deep underground and then open the end of their beak to grab them.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.