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An often overlooked winter visitor to Dorset coastal locations but sadly no longer a breeding species here.

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)cbreed throughout much of the British Isles in mainly upland areas. Once a Dorset nesting species in damp heathland bogs it is sadly no longer seen in these locations. Snipe are not great travellers and tend not to migrate long distances for the winter but they do move from the harsh upland habitats to warmer coastal locations here in the south. They are not as common as they once were here in Dorset and they are masters of camouflage so finding them can be tricky.

Snipe have no really distinctive features other than that long pointed bill and yet they are quite obvious to identify, even from a distance. They are not big waders and they are dull, streaky brown which makes for ideal camouflage. Unlike many waders who are quite happy to get out on the mud flats at low tide to feed the snipe never does, they like to keep themselves away from open spaces and 'hide' in reeds or amongst salt-marsh grasses.

The weekly reporting chart shows that snipe are never frequently reported now. Whilst there are a couple of weeks in summer when they have been recorded they are virtually absent from week 19 at the end of May until the first of the autumn arrivals start to appear in week 28 at the end of July. They are then seen throughout the autumn, winter and spring and there does appear to be a slight surge in sightings in weeks 46 and 9 which might imply evidence of passage movement as a result of weather changes.

Like many waders they can be seen at sheltered coastal sites where there is saltmarsh or reed bed near tidal mudflats and Lodmoor and Lytchett Bay seem most favourable. Apart from these two hot-spots there are megre reports from the other thirty six sites where they have been seen. 

Radipole during the winter months would seem the best opportunity to see snipe for your Dorset list.


Common Name Snipe
Scientific Name Gallinago gallinago
Species Group Birds Sandpipers
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

Brown waders with brown streaked backs and long pointed bills

Identification Notes
  • Snipe are not uncommon in winter but are often quite difficult to see as they are well camouflaged and tend to blend with their surroundings
  • Although mud feeders they often shun open spaces and feed in channels amongst saltmarsh or around the edge of reed beds
  • If you see a very small version of the snipe check out the much rarer jack snipe
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Sandpipers