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Wood Snipe

Gallinago nemoricola

The wood snipe, Gallinago nemoricola, is a rather elusive bird, cloaked in darker plumage than its congeners. It measures between 28 to 32 centimeters in length and is characterized by a short, broad-based bill, an adaptation that hints at its unique foraging habits.

Identification Tips

To identify the wood snipe, one should look for a bird with dark plumage and a relatively short bill. Its cryptic coloration allows it to blend seamlessly with its surroundings, a trait that is particularly useful in its high-altitude habitats.

Habitat

The wood snipe is a high-altitude specialist, breeding in the alpine meadows of the Himalayas. These meadows, often found above 3,000 meters, provide the seclusion and resources necessary for the wood snipe's breeding season.

Distribution

This species is indigenous to the Himalayas, with breeding grounds spanning northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, and southern China. In the winter, it descends to lower altitudes within the Himalayas and is known to visit north Vietnam in small numbers. It has also been recorded as a vagrant in various regions including central and southern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, north Thailand, and Laos.

Behaviour

The wood snipe exhibits a preference for nesting on boulders near rhododendron shrubs. During the breeding season, it selects areas with intermediate soil moisture and higher soil fauna abundance for foraging.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in the May-July period, where the wood snipe can be found in the alpine meadows. The birds show a particular affinity for nesting near rhododendron shrubs, which provide both cover and a suitable microhabitat for raising their young.

Diet and Feeding

A forager of invertebrates, the wood snipe's diet is primarily composed of worms. It also consumes seeds and larvae, which it finds in the dung of Chauri cattle, a common livestock in the Himalayas.

Conservation status

The wood snipe is currently classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. With an estimated mature population of 2,500 to 10,000 individuals, the species faces threats from the widespread loss of wetland habitats in both its breeding and wintering grounds. However, it does find some refuge in protected areas such as Langtang and Sagarmatha National Parks in Nepal.

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