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Posts Tagged ‘Gallinago delicata’

When I saw a Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) on Friday, I expected that it was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting and was really happy to have gotten some photos. I never imagined that I would see the bird (possibly the same one) the very next day in even better lighting conditions. I may eventually post some other photos, but I wanted to share this one in which he is visible against a snowy background that is mostly blown out. I think it helps to highlight some of the wonderful colors and textures of this long-billed shorebird.

Somehow the word “snipe,” which is used in all kinds of other contexts, doesn’t seem dignified enough for this beautiful bird, so I have taken to calling him the “Pinnochio bird”—for obvious reasons.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I encountered the strangest-looking bird I have ever seen in the wild.

As I was marveling at the fact that some of the water surrounding the beaver pond at my local marshland park had not frozen despite multiple days of temperatures in the 20’s (minus 4-6 degrees C), I heard a sound in the water. Most of the birds that I had seen earlier in the day were sparrows, pecking away in the undergrowth, but it was clear that this was no sparrow.

The bird was standing in the shallow water and was bent over. When he withdrew his bill from the water, I was amazed at its length—it looked to be almost freakishly long. When I first looked at my images on the computer screen, I though of a recent posting of fellow blogger Calee in which she comment that an orchid she had photographed looked like a cartoon character. Truly, this bird looked like he could have been playing the role of Pinnochio.

I think that this bird is a Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata), judging from the information that I was able to find on the internet and in my Peterson’s guide. I really like the way that he blends in with the surroundings in which I found him.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists some fascinating facts about the bird’s extra-long bill, “The long bill of the Wilson’s Snipe is flexible. The tips can be opened and closed with no movement at the base of the bill. Sensory pits at the tip of the bill allow the snipe to feel its prey deep in the mud.”

It’s a bit early for the mating season, but it seems that the family life of the Wilson’s Snipes is as  dysfunctional as that of some humans. According to the Cornell Lab, “The clutch size of the Wilson’s Snipe is almost always four eggs. The male snipe takes the first two chicks to hatch and leaves the nest with them. The female takes the last two and cares for them. Apparently the parents have no contact after that point.”

The range maps for this bird show that I am close to the northern edge of the wintering area for these migratory birds, so I am hoping that I’ll have a chance to see one again.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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