Re: birding-aus Snipe

To: <>, <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Snipe
From: "Michael Todd" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 13:46:45 +1100

Hello Snipers,

Further to David Geering's comments re snipe. There is a great deal of
variation in Latham's Snipe both in terms of size and also colour. Size is
generally smaller when they first reach Australia from Japan (spring) and is
greatest just before they leave Australia (autumn). David Geering and I
banded over 100 in the Hunter Valley last year and weights ranged from 125
grams to 185 grams. I believe colour is greatly dependent on how old the
plumage is, paler plumage being older plumage- I am very dubious of most of
the illustrations you see in field guides making snipe species look
completely different colours. I assume that both Swinhoe's and Pintail Snipe
are similar to Latham's in these details.

Late last year I had a look at some snipe up in North Queensland that are
rumoured to be Swinhoe's Snipe ( they may be- but I'm sitting on the
fence!). A feature I noted was that the birds did not call at all. However,
as David mentioned, Latham's snipe don't always call when flushed. The
method used to identify snipe in the hand is the number and pattern of tail
feathers (illustrated in HANZAB). It is possible if you are close enough and
get a good enough look at relaxed snipe (a rare thing), that with a
telescope you could pick out the pattern on the tail feathers. I would
suggest that this would be the only way of separating them in the field.
I've heard said that Swinhoe's feed in a different way to Latham's but I
think that you would need to have a LOT of experience of watching a lot of
snipe (of various species) feeding before that could be considered, as I'm
sure there would be variation there also.

I believe that the congregation of 500 snipe that David alluded to was the
largest recorded flock of Latham's Snipe ever in Australia, making the site
concerned one of great significance, especially during drought times as it
was when they were recorded. The site also harbored Painted Snipe, Wood
Sandpiper, Glossy Ibis, Magpie Goose, Spotless Crake and Baillon's Crake. I
understand that the Hunter Bird Observers Club carried out another survey of
the site last year and found 230 snipe (although there were less counters
than in 1997). It is hoped that the site can be conserved as currently most
of the site is private property (they are considerate to the birds however).



Michael Todd
Finch Researcher,
Dept.of Environment and Heritage,
Pormpuraaw, Qld, Australia, 4871

-----Original Message-----
From: Laurence & Leanne Knight <>
To:  <>
Date: Tuesday, 16 March 1999 6:56
Subject: birding-aus Snipe

>On the weekend I was doing a bit of spotting round Clarrie Hall Dam
>[near Uki / Mt Warning in northern NSW].  Four times while I was walking
>in the shin-knee high grass a couple of metres from the edge of the lake
>I flushed what I presume were Latham's Snipe [there were at least two
>birds] - they had long dark bills, white underparts and distinct head
>There is a fair bit of variation in the listed size of L snipe - ranging
>from 24-26 cm in Simpson & Day to 28-31 cm in Pizzey and Knight.  These
>birds seemed to be at the larger end of that spectrum.
>In a major point of difference with the field guides however, the snipe
>did not 'dash wildly into the sky' or fly in a 'zig zagging' or 'erratic
>flight'.  Rather, their flight was more consistent with the Readers
>Digest - they flew around 100 metres in a fairly direct manner about 2-5
>metres above the ground before landing in the grass beside the lake
>The literature suggests that Lathams snipe is the only one frequenting
>NSW - are there any reliable records of similar species of snipe in
>northern NSW?
>Laurie Knight, Brisbane.
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