Common Snipe: Air transport in case of danger

BekassineStill completely disheveled and barely freed from the eggshell, the tiny Common Snipe chick (Gallinago gallinago) sets off to explore the surrounding area of a peat bog. With every step the little precocious bird becomes safer and braver. A little too brave, supose its mother. Because the little one steps out into the open meadow. The call of a bird of prey – probably a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – can be heard in the distance. Has the Common Buzzard spotted the little snipe already? In any case, the mother has been warned. She grabs her chick, clamps it to her chest with her beak and flies away with the offspring.

Snipes can transport their young in this remarkable way. The common snipe is a wading bird known for its long beak and the distinctive drumming sound produced during its courtship or display flights. These birds are or were once common in swamps, wetlands and other habitats with high water levels.

The term “nestling” refers to a young bird that is still in the nest and has not yet fledged. Nestlings are usually helpless and dependent on their parents for food and protection. The nestling stage follows the hatching stage (when the bird has just emerged from the egg) and precedes the juvenile stage (when the bird is capable of flight).

The air transport described above could also be observed in Germany in the past. Because the little brown wading birds were quite common in our country in the right habitats. Today many people don’t even know their names anymore.

Why are Snipes rare today? For one thing, they were hunted and eaten. On the other hand, their habitat was destroyed. The small birds with extra-long beaks can only live in wet areas. But moors and wet meadows have been drained almost everywhere in order to make them more usable for agriculture. So the remaining birds are literally left high and dry, unable to find food or breed.

The nestlings of the Common Snipe, like the nestlings of many bird species, go through several developmental stages after hatching. The nestling stage begins with hatching. The parents play a crucial role in incubating the eggs, and once the eggs hatch, the nestlings are born. Newborn nestlings are typically entirely dependent on parents for help, meaning they are born in a largely undeveloped and helpless state. They cannot open their eyes and are completely dependent on their parents for food, warmth and protection. The snipe’s parents feed the nestlings with invertebrates and other small organisms. Parents may search nearby wetlands for suitable food for their chicks.

The small Snipes grow quickly in the first phase of life. They develop feathers, open their eyes and become more active. The parents continue to provide them with food to support their growth. The parents still spend a lot of time brooding the chicks, especially in the first few days when the chicks need to be kept warm. When it rains, the nestlings must be protected from the water and hypothermia. Only when the nestlings grow and develop feathers can they better regulate their body temperature.

Observing the behavior of nestlings in the wild can be challenging, as parent birds are quite cautious and secretive during breeding and especially afterwards. Researchers and bird watchers therefore often use hides or blinds, or use permanently installed wildlife cameras to examine species-typical behavior without disturbing the nesting birds.

The term “snipe” is sometimes used colloquially to refer to someone or something that is elusive or difficult to find, likely due to the Common Snipe´s elusive behavior.

To meet the growing demand for top-of-the-line images of the rarer Palaearctic species, strives to expand the range of images of Western Palaearctic birds. Trips to many locations to take pictures of rare western Palearctic birds have been very successful. This nice picture of the blog is just a first impression of what you can find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Please leave a message if can provide a picture.

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