Common snipe were once commonly referred to as goats of the sky, due to the ‘drumming’ noise produced by the male on warm spring evenings. Drumming is produced by wind whistling through his outer tail feathers.
These are quite secretive birds, which tend to skulk about in the vegetation and are most commonly seen when flushed from their resting place causing them to fly away in a zig-zag pattern across the sky.
Snipe are dependent upon wet fields with differences in sward height. They usually nest at the base of a rush clump but if a field becomes overgrown with rush; it is no longer suitable for nesting. The female likes to be able to walk off the nest and feed close-by in short vegetation or bare ground. If vegetation is too dense, then the female will have to fly to feed, which advertises the location of the nest to potential predators.
Like most waders, four eggs are laid and often, soon after the chicks hatch, they are separated with the male bird taking two chicks and the female two.
Snipe have suffered catastrophic declines across most parts of the country. This is mostly due to farm intensification and drainage. Snipe need to be able to dig deep and prise their long bill open in the soil to feed on invertebrates. If the ground becomes too dry, they cannot access food.
Did you know that the snipe population in the UK increases tenfold during the winter months? This is due to birds migrating here from Scandinavia and Russia to feed in unfrozen soils.