Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wilson's Snipe

The well-camouflaged Wilson’s Snipe is likely to go unnoticed by you, until they can’t take you approaching any longer and zigzag away.

They patrol the muddy water’s edge with their extremely long flexible bill looking for worms, invertebrates and crustaceans.  They can open the tip of their bill underwater without opening the whole bill itself.  They nibble for small creatures as they bob, tilt and probe the mud that camouflages their presence. 

These secretive birds, likely on migration, were recently feeding at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.  They used to be called the Common Snipe, but have been reclassified according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website as the Wilson’s Snipe. The Wilson’s Snipe is slightly different from the Common Snipe of Eurasia, mostly involving the number of tail feathers each species possesses. 

A tail feather more or less aside, the Wilson’s Snipe has an interesting nesting adaptation.  A mated pair usually produces four eggs.  The male leaves the nest to raise the first two hatchlings alone and never returns.  The female continues to incubate the third and fourth eggs and raises them alone too. They’re not known to see each other ever again. 

I didn’t witness that particular nesting peculiarity because it’s not the breeding season.   I was only lucky enough to see these well-camouflaged birds at close range, foraging for food as they migrated south.