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the web of life in southern Africa

Gallinago media (Great snipe)

Dubbelsnip [Afrikaans]; Poelsnip [Dutch]; Bécassine double [French]; Doppelschnepfe [German]; Narceja-real [Portuguese];

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in Europe and southern Russia, heading south in the non-breeding season to sub-Saharan Africa, including patches of West Africa but mainly occurring from Sudan and Ethiopia to Zambia, Angola and marginally in southern Africa. Here it is rare in a narrow band from northern Namibia through northern Botswana to Zimbabwe and central Namibia, with vagrant records near the southern and eastern coast of South Africa. It generally prefers the margins of lakes and flooded sedge marshes, occasionally moving through short grassland away from water.

Movements and migrations

Most birds arrive in southern Africa in November, occasionally earlier in September and October, staying until March before heading back to its Eurasian breeding grounds.


In Europe it mainly eats annelid worms, insect larvae, small molluscs and crustaceans, doing most of its foraging by probing for invertebrates in soft mud, often at sports fields, marshes, plough furrows and puddles on dirt roads.


Near-threatened, due to a massive contraction of its breeding range mainly caused by loss of habitat, especially flood plains, fens, tussock meadows and peatlands. The only area where its breeding population is in Scandinavia, but elsewhere in Europe and Russia it is in serious trouble. These decreases are mirrored in its non-breeding grounds, where for example in southern Africa before 1900 it was a fairly common summer visitor across much of the region. Since the beginning of the 20th Century its range rapidly contracted until now it occurs just in the north (including Zimbabwe, where it was previously rare), while almost completely absent from South Africa.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.