Snipe Gallinago gallinago perched on fencepost in breeding habitat, Tiree Hebridies Scotland


The snipe breeds in wet flushes on moorland, damp pasture and at the edges of watercourses.

Snipes in brief

The range in the UK declined by 19 per cent between 1970 and 1990*. The main reason for the decline on farmland has been the drainage of grassland and moorland. 

*Data source: British Trust for Ornithology

Key points

  • Retain and restore patches of wet ground in both grassland and moorland areas.
  • Extensively graze wet grasslands to provide a mosaic of tall and short vegetation.
  • Minimise grazing during the nesting period.

What this species needs

Wet ground and tall vegetation for nesting from April to July

The snipe breeds in wet areas with tussocky vegetation 10-30cm tall. Even small, wet field corners can be used.

Soft, damp soil for feeding

The snipe feeds mainly on earthworms, leatherjackets, beetles and caterpillars. Young chicks are generally fed earthworms collected by the parents around the nesting site.

Snipe Gallinago gallinago, juvenile concealed amongst vegetation at Hoy RSPB reserve.

How to help

Wet areas, ditches and drains

  • Wet flushes, boggy areas and damp, rough grassland can be retained or re-created by avoiding or minimising new drainage and by blocking grips and drains where this is feasible. Even small wet flushes, created by blocking one field drain, can be very valuable. 
  • Maintain or create suitable nesting habitat along the margins of watercourses with light grazing, preferably by cattle, from late summer. 

On unimproved pasture

  • Unimproved pasture should be managed with no, or limited, use of fertiliser. 
  • Use light stocking levels from mid-March to the end of July to maintain tall vegetation in the wet flushes during the breeding season. 
  • Grazing by cattle from late summer onwards will provide a tussocky sward for nesting and feeding the following spring.  

On moorland

  • Avoid draining moorland areas and restore wet flushes by blocking grips. 
  • Avoid converting moorland to grassland by liming, fertilising or re-seeding. 
  • Avoid burning large patches for grazing.
Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, adult male in boggy edge of pasture, Northumberland