The great snipe feeds singly or in small groups, often under the cover of darkness, using its long, pointed bill to probe the soil or shallow water for food. Its diet consists primarily of earthworms, but the great snipe also consumes gastropods, terrestrial insect larvae and adults, and seeds, mainly of marsh plants (2).
In the breeding season, the most fascinating behaviour of this bird can be observed. The great snipe is a lekking species, meaning that males gather after sunset at a display ground, or lek, and compete with each other for the attention of females. The competition takes the form of an elaborate display performed on top of a small mound, in which the white feathers of the tail are distinctly advertised (2). Females visit the lek solely for the purpose of mating and select a male based on a number of possible characteristics. Females mate with males in the centre of the lek more than those around the outside (7), and seem to prefer males with more white on their tails (8). In addition, males that displayed more intensely obtained more matings, and vocalisations also play an important role (7).
As in other lekking species, the male great snipes take no part in parental care following mating (7). The female is solely responsible for building a nest, incubating the eggs and caring for the young. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground, situated amongst thick vegetation, and lined with moss or grass. An average of four eggs are laid and incubated for 22 to 24 days. The young become independent at 21 to 28 days of age, immediately after fledging (2).
In early August, after the breeding season, great snipes leave their European breeding grounds and begin the impressive migration to sub-Saharan Africa. Here they remain until March or April, when they must undertake the great journey again (2).