Adults are 25-27 cm in length with a 44-47 cm wingspan and a weight of 80-140 g (up to 180 g pre-migration). They have short greenish-grey legs and a very long (5.5-7 cm) straight dark bill. The body is mottled brown with straw-yellow stripes on top and pale underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye, with light stripes above and below it. The wings are pointed.
Habitat and Distribution
The breeding habitat is marshes, bogs, tundra and wet meadows throughout northern Europe and northern Asia. It is migratory, with European birds wintering in southern and western Europe and Africa (south to the Equator), and Asian migrants moving to tropical southern Asia. The North American Wilson's Snipe was previously considered the same species, and is listed as such in older field guides.
They forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, also some plant material.
The male performs `winnowing` display during courtship, flying high in circles and then taking shallow dives to produce a `drumming` sound by vibrating its tail feathers. Common Snipe nest in a well-hidden location on the ground, laying four eggs of a dark olive colour, blotched and spotted with rich brown, which are incubated by the female for 18-21 days. The young when freshly hatched are covered in down of a dark maroon, variegated with black, white and buff. The young are cared for by both parents, each parent looking after half the brood, with fledging in 10-20 days.
Calls and Songs
When flushed, they utter a sharp note that sounds like scape, scape and fly off in a series of aerial zig-zags to confuse predators.