Gallinago delicata

Status:  Fairly common regular spring and fall migrant statewide.  Uncommon regular breeder north and west, rare casual elsewhere.  Rare regular local winter visitor statewide.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM12634, 3 Nov 1910 Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized.  This species was formerly treated as conspecific with Eurasian Common Snipe (G. gallinago), but the two were elevated to species status by Banks et al (2002).

Spring:  Mar 14, 15, 15 <<<>>> May 14, 15, 15

Early dates above reflect an increasing number of reports in presumably of arriving migrants. Wintering occurs widely (see Winter).

Later dates above reflect an decreasing number of reports in May in areas south of the Platte and North Platte River Valleys as most migratory movement ends. However any sighting from early May onward, especially if territorial display (winnowing) is observed, may indicate breeding (see Breeding Phenology and Summer).

Migrants arrive by the end of Mar and peak migration occurs during early Apr.

  • High counts: 130 in the eastern Rainwater Basin 3-4 Apr 1997 (including 38 at Bluewing WMA, Clay Co), 93 at Marsh Wren Community Wetlands, Lancaster Co 13 Apr 2019, 87 in the eastern Rainwater Basin 3 Apr 1999 (including 52 at Sinninger WPA, York Co), and 77 there 4 Apr 2004.

SummerDespite presumptions that the species breeds regularly over much of northern Nebraska (Mollhoff 2016, Sharpe et al 2001), the species’ breeding status is poorly defined.  There are areas, such as the Sandhills, where the species occurs regularly during summer and presumably breeds, but documented records are few (Ducey 1988, Mollhoff 2016).  In other portions of the state, especially east and south of the Sandhills, there are occasional reports of winnowing birds, a territorial behavior indicative of breeding.

Breeding apparently occurs regularly north of the Platte River and North Platte River in the Sandhills and Panhandle, east to Holt, Knox, Antelope, and Pierce Cos. However, in large portions of this area, breeding birds may be rare or absent. For example, Rosche (1982) considered Wilson’s Snipe a “locally rare summer visitant” in his study area that included Box Butte, Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux Counties. Rosche (1982) noted territorial birds occurred regularly in the Smith Lake region of Sheridan County but also that “we have no evidence of nesting at this time”.

Breeding possibly occurs with some regularity in the eastern saline wetlands of Lancaster and southern Saunders Cos where winnowing birds are occasionally observed, but there are no recent records other than a single bird at Wagon Train Lake SRA, Lancaster Co 20 Jun 2018. Singles were at Lake Wanahoo, Saunders Co 20 May 2020 and Tamora WPA, Seward Co 26 May 2020. Mollhoff (2016) suggested breeding may occur at scattered sites in the Rainwater Basin, but Jorgensen (2012) listed only two reports during late May through June; two recent reports are of singles at Ayr Lake, Adams Co 19 Jun 2019 and at Hultine WPA, Clay Co 2 Jul 2019.

  • Breeding Phenology:
    Eggs:  1 May-Jun.
    Laying is preceded by up to two weeks of territorial winnowing by males (Johnsgard 1979, Mollhoff 2008).
    Young:  10 May-12 Jul

Fall:  Aug 11, 12, 12 <<<>>> Nov 19, 20, 20

Earlier dates above reflect an increasing number of reports in Aug in areas south of the Platte and North Platte River Valleys as migratory movement becomes evident.

Late dates are difficult to determine due to wintering birds, but those above are from areas north of the Platte River system away from known wintering areas.

Apparent migrants become evident in non-breeding locations by late Jul; these are probably failed breeders, which leave breeding areas in mid-Jul (O’Brien et al 2006), although successful breeders from the nearby Sandhills might also account for these late Jul reports. Such reports are of one in Sarpy Co at a sod farm 26 Jul 2005, eight in the eastern Rainwater Basin 28 Jul 2001, three in Lancaster Co 30 Jul 2009, two at Jack Sinn WMA, Lancaster Co 30 Jul 2016, and singles in York Co 29 and 31 Jul 2003.

Peak numbers occur during Sep and also much later, in Nov; the early peak is probably of females, and the later peak males, as juveniles may migrate before males (Mueller 2020).

  • High counts: 200+ at Harvard WPA, Clay Co 6 Nov 2005 (Jorgensen 2012), 125 on 90th Rd, Hall Co 15 Sep 2019, 109 in Burt Co 25 Oct 2018, and 80 at Harvard WPA, Clay Co 6 Nov 2004.

WinterThis species winters locally, especially in areas with warm water springs that provide soft mud for probing. There are multiple Jan-Feb reports from Scotts Bluff, Keith, Lincoln, and Lancaster Cos, and it has been reported in midwinter as far north as Dawes, Cherry, and Antelope Cos.  Rosche (1982) listed “Common” Snipe as an uncommon winter visitant in northwest Nebraska. In all there are at least 50 reports in Jan, with fewest reports in Feb.

  • High Counts:  25+ Hiatt Memorial Wetland, North Platte 8 Jan 2014.


UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)

Literature Cited

Banks, R.C., C. Cicero, J.L. Dunn, A.W. Kratter, P.C. Rasmussen, J.V. Remsen, Jr., J.A. Rising, and D.F. Stotz. 2002. Forty-third supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union check-list of North American birds. Auk 119: 897-906.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2008. The 2007 Nebraska nest report. NBR 76: 155-165.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2016. The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas. Bull. Univ. Nebraska State Museum Vol 29. University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mueller, H. 2020. Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.wilsni1.01

O’Brien, M., R. Crossley, and K. Karlson. 2006. The Shorebird Guide. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, New York, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Sharpe, R.S., W.R. Silcock, and J.G. Jorgensen. 2001. The Birds of Nebraska: their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 23 Dec 2020