common snipe

common snipe defined in 1930 year

common snipe - Common Snipe;
common snipe - Upper plumage mottled black and chestnut-brown; flanks barred with white and dusky; under parts white. Length, ten inches and a half.

The common snipe, like the woodcock, breeds in limited numbers throughout the British Islands. But the woodcock nests in woods, and, owing to the increase of plantations, the bird as a breeding species has increased with us. Just the contrary has happened with the snipe. He is a breeder in marshes, fens, and low, wet grounds, and as drainage and cultivation deprive him of suitable localities to nest in, he diminishes in numbers. Most of the birds that winter in our islands are migrants from Scandinavia; they come in October and November, and remain until March. During the winter months they are often compelled by changes in the weather to shift their feeding-grounds, and intense cold is very fatal to them. Their soft, sensitive bills must have a soft soil to probe in, and frost cuts off their food-supply. "When approached, the snipe seeks to avoid observation by crouching close to the earth, where its mottled upper plumage fits in well with the colour of the boggy or wet ground; on taking wing it rushes upwards with a violent zigzag flight, uttering at the same time a sharp, scraping cry, two or three times repeated. Late in March or early in April the snipes pair, and it is then that the males begin to practise their curious aerial exercises, familiar to anyone who observes wild bird life, and about which so much has been said by ornithologists. The performance takes place at all hours of the day, but chiefly towards evening, the bird rising to an immense height in the air, and precipitating himself downwards with astonishing violence, producing in his descent the peculiar sound variously described as drumming, bleating, scythe-whetting, and neighing. From this sound the snipe has been named in some districts ' moor-lamb ' and 'heather-bleater.' As to how the sound is produced opinions differ still, although the question has been discussed for over a century. Probably it is in part vocal and partly produced by the wing-feathers.

The snipe makes a very slight nest of a few dried grass leaves and stalks, placed among rushes or by the side of a tussock of coarse grass. Four eggs are laid, yellowish or greenish white, the larger end spotted with various shades of brown. The female hatches the eggs without assistance from her mate, who continues his play in the air at intervals every day until the young are out. Two broods are sometimes reared in the season.

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