Greater painted-snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

Also known as: Greater painted snipe, painted snipe
French: Rhynchée peinte
GenusRostratula (1)
SizeLength: 23 - 28 cm (2)
Wingspan: 50 - 55 cm (2)
Weight90 - 200 g (2)

The greater painted-snipe is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A medium-sized, attractive water bird, the greater painted-snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) is unusual amongst birds because the female is larger and more brightly coloured than the male. The female greater painted-snipe has distinct white patches around the eyes, which contrasts the dark red-brown head and neck. The upperparts are dark bronze-green with fine black barring and the wings are dark grey, white and gold. The male greater painted-snipe has a conspicuous golden eye patch that sits in stark contrast with the grey-brown head, ash-grey neck, and white streaked throat. The upperparts and wings are gold, brown and black, a golden “V” streaks the male’s back, and the underparts are white (2) (3) (4).

Both the male and the female greater painted-snipe have a long, slightly downward-curving bill, which is superbly adapted for probing for prey in water and mud, and have long legs with partially webbed feet, an adaptation for walking in water and on muddy ground (2) (3) (4).

The greater painted-snipe occurs from Africa and Madagascar, eastwards to Pakistan, north-eastern China, south-eastern Russia, and south-east Asia (2) (3).

The greater painted-snipe is typically found in the wetlands of tropical and subtropical lowlands, occuring in areas such as swamps, overgrown rice fields, freshwater lakes and mangroves. In the Himalayas, it occurs at altitudes of up to 1,800 metres (2) (3).

Despite feeding mainly on invertebrates such as insects, snails and earthworms, the greater painted-snipe is omnivorous and will also eat seeds, rice and a variety of grasses. Food is found by probing its long bill into soft mud or by searching underwater, making side to side head movements until it makes contact with, and grasps prey with its sensitive bill. Although primarily crepuscular, the greater painted-snipe occasionally forages at night (1) (2) (3).

In Africa, the greater painted-snipe breeds during, or shortly after, the rains, which occur from March to June in western Africa and August to November in southern Africa. A variation in breeding time occurs in Asia, ranging from July to April across the range. Although monogamous in a few regions, the female greater painted-snipe tends to breed with multiple males in a season. A nest is constructed of a thick mat of floating water weed, often close to that of other greater painted-snipe nests, and concealed from predators in thick, marshy vegetation close to the ground or on a low hummock. The nest is a shallow cup lined with stems and leaves and is often built up with interwoven plant material. Two to three eggs are laid which are incubated by the male for 15 to 21 days, as the female leaves to mate with a different male. After the eggs hatch, the male continues caring for the well-developed chicks which can walk, run, swim and find food shortly after hatching (2) (3).

Although the global population is decreasing (1), there appear to be no major threats to the greater painted-snipe.

There are no known conservation plans targeting the greater painted-snipe.

To find out more information on the greater painted-snipe and other bird species:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Kennedy, R.S. (2000) A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  4. Davidson, I. and Sinclair, I. (2006) Southern African Birds: a Photographic Guide. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.