Pintail snipe (Gallinago stenura)

Also known as: Pin-tailed snipe
French: Bécassine à queue pointue
GenusGallinago (1)
SizeWingspan: 44 - 48 cm (2)
Length: 25 - 27 cm (2)
Weight85 - 125 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The pintail snipe has beautifully mottled black, brown and reddish-brown plumage, providing the bird with superb camouflage. The plumage on the underside is pale and a dark stripe runs across each eye, with lighter streaks above and below. The pintail snipe is very similar in appearance to its relative, the common snipe, except for darker colouring under the wings and a shorter, but still pointed, two-toned bill (2). The tail of the pintail snipe contains 26 feathers (4), with the outermost eight feathers on each side being specially adapted to produce sound. These pin-like feathers are very narrow, strong and stiff, and by vibrating these feathers the pintail snipe produces a fizzing sound (5) (6).   

The pintail snipe’s breeding range extends across Siberia, from the Ob River to Chukota (2). During the winter months it migrates southward to Central and Southeast Asia, as far south as Indonesia (2) (3). Occasionally, it may also be found in parts of Australia and eastern Africa (3).

During the breeding season the pintail snipe is found in damp marshes and tundra (3), while outside of the breeding season, it inhabits a wider variety of wetlands, including flooded fields, wet grasslands, swamps and marshland (3).

Between May and August the pintail snipe breeds in wet, marshy habitats in the northern parts of its range, before migrating huge distances in small groups of five to ten birds. The nest is typically just a simple depression in the ground, situated out of sight, hidden amongst vegetation (3). The pintail snipe is renowned for its peculiar display it performs during the breeding season, which incorporates undulating flight, gliding, calling, and plunging dives accompanied by the sound of its vibrating tail feathers (5).

The diet of the pintail snipe is comprised mainly of molluscs and insects, but also includes earthworms and crustaceans, as well as some seeds and plant material. Typically foraging by picking and probing at the earth with its long, pointed beak, the pintail snipe is mostly nocturnal but will also feed during the day (7).  

Throughout its range, the pintail snipe is impacted by hunting. However, due to the fact that it has a wide range and a large and stable population, it is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (3).

The pintail snipe is one of the 255 species of bird to which the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement applies. This agreement, which covers 118 countries, seeks to protect species dependent on wetlands, and calls upon countries to engage in a wide range of conservation actions, such as habitat conservation, species research, and public education (8). 

To learn more about the conservation of waterbirds see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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 (March, 2010)
  2. Polar Conservation Organisation (November, 2009)
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2009)
  4. Grzimek, B. (1984) Animal Life Encyclopedia. Volume 7: Birds. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York.
  5. Byrkjedal, I. (1990) Song flight of the pintail snipe Gallinago stenura on the breeding grounds. Ornis Scandinavica, 21(4): 239-247.
  6. Whistler, H. (2007) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Gurney and Jackson, London.
  7. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford.
  8. AEWA (November, 2009)