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Painted Snipes: Rostratulidae

Greater Painted Snipe (rostratula Benghalensis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: The greater painted snipe measures 9 to 10.9 inches (23 to 28 centimeters) in length and 3.2 to 6.7 ounces (90 to 190 grams) in weight. The female greater painted snipe has a reddish brown head and neck with a bronze-green back and wings. The male has a gray head and back spotted with gold. Both males and females have white eye patches and a white stripe on the top of the head. Young greater painted snipes resemble adult males.

Geographic range: The greater painted snipe is found in Madagascar, sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, Southeast Asia, Japan, southeast Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia. The Australian populations are distinct from other greater painted snipes and may be a separate species.

Habitat: Greater painted snipes occupy wetland habitats. They sometimes inhabit human-made areas such as rice fields.

Diet: Greater painted snipes are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal matter. Their diet includes small invertebrates, including insects, worms, and crustaceans, as well as seeds and grains.

Behavior and reproduction: Greater painted snipes are usually found either alone or in small groups. They forage, or search for food, around dusk as well as at night.

Greater painted snipes are either polyandrous, with each female mating with multiple males, or monogamous, with each female mating with only one male. The greater painted snipe may breed at any time during the year, but most frequently breeds after rainfalls. Females usually lay four eggs at a time in a shallow grass bowl-shaped nest. Nests are usually hidden in moist vegetation. Males are responsible for incubating, or sitting on, the eggs. Chicks hatch after fifteen to twenty-one days. Greater painted snipe chicks are precocial, and are usually able to leave the nest fairly quickly after hatching. Chicks are cared for exclusively by the male.

Greater painted snipes and people: Greater painted snipes have long been hunted for sport.

Conservation status: The greater painted snipe is not considered threatened at the present time. However, some populations have declined due to the large-scale loss of wetland habitats. The Australian greater painted snipes may represent a distinct species, and if so, would likely be considered either Vulnerable or Endangered. ∎



del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1996.

Perrins, Christopher, ed. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2003.

Web sites:

"Painted Snipes." Bird Families of the World, Cornell University. http://www.es.cornell.edu/winkler/botw/rostratulidae.html (accessed on April 20, 2004).

"Rostratulidae (Painted-Snipes)." The Internet Bird Collection. http://www.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/familia.phtml?idFamilia=53 (accessed on April 20, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsPainted Snipes: Rostratulidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Greater Painted Snipe (rostratula Benghalensis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, PAINTED SNIPES AND PEOPLE