A Snipe is any of nearly 20 very similar wading bird species characterised by a very long slender bill and cryptic plumage. Snipe in the family Scolopacidae belong either to the small genera Coenocorypha (the New Zealand snipes) and Lymnocryptes, or to the about 15 typical snipes in the genus Gallinago. The latter are the closest relatives of the woodcocks , whereas the small genera represent earlier divergences in the snipe/woodcock clade (Thomas et al., 2004). The three species of Painted Snipe are not closely related to these, and are placed in their own family, the Rostratulidae.
They search for invertebrates in the mud with a "sewing-machine" action of their long bills.
Most have distinctive displays, usually given at dawn or dusk.
English manuscripts dating from the 15th century indicate that the bird was originally called a "snyte" (Austin, 1888).
Some snipe species have been hunted for food and sport since the invention of the shotgun. They can be extremely difficult targets, confounding even very skilled hunters with their erratic flight, their unexpected flushes, their excellent natural camouflage and the treacherous and difficult terrain they typically inhabit.
The elusive nature of the snipe is well-known among hunters. In the days of market hunting, the most skilled hunters of all would often bring many Common Snipe to market earning the moniker "sniper" as a badge of respect for the difficulty in shooting this amazing little bird. The term has evolved into the modern usage sniper, referring to a skilled antipersonnel sharpshooter. In addition, the often-unsuccessful nature of a snipe hunt lead to the practical joke of the same name.
Genera and species are:
- Chatham Island Snipe Coenocorypha pusilla. Chatham Islands.
- Auckland Island Snipe Coenocorypha (aucklandica) aucklandica. Auckland Islands.
- † North Island Snipe Coenocorypha (aucklandica) barrierensis
- Snares Island Snipe Coenocorypha (aucklandica) huegeli. Snares Islands.
- † South Island Snipe Coenocorypha (aucklandica) iredalei
- Antipodes Island Snipe Coenocorypha (aucklandica) meinertzhagenae. Antipodes Islands.
- † Forbes' Snipe Coenocorypha chathamica
- Campbell Island Snipe Coenocorypha sp.
- † Viti Levu Snipe Coenocorypha miratropica
- † New Caledonia Snipe Coenocorypha sp.
- † Norfolk Island Snipe Coenocorypha sp.
- Jack Snipe, Lymnocryptes minimus
- Solitary Snipe, Gallinago solitaria
- Latham's Snipe, Gallinago hardwickii
- Wood Snipe, Gallinago nemoricola
- Pintail Snipe, Gallinago stenura
- Swinhoe's Snipe, Gallinago megala
- African Snipe, Gallinago nigripennis
- Madagascar Snipe, Gallinago macrodactyla
- Great Snipe, Gallinago media
- Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago
- Wilson's Snipe, Gallinago delicata
- South American Snipe, Gallinago paraguaiae
- Noble Snipe, Gallinago nobilis
- Giant Snipe, Gallinago undulata
- Fuegian Snipe, Gallinago stricklandii
- Andean Snipe, Gallinago jamesoni
- Imperial Snipe, Gallinago imperialis
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