Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Flight Display of the Common Snipe

I went out to Goose Lake Prairie State Park to capture some Tree Swallow shots, and set up near a birdhouse. I was taking plenty of photos of them, and suddenly heard a weird sound. I didn't know what it was, and couldn't zero in on a location, but it was definately close. It sounded like a monkey call if I had to describe it. Every time I heard it, it seemed to ride the wind. I attempted to get closer to where the sound was coming from, but just as I go in 1 direction, it seemed to be behind me. My partner Cutti pointed into the sky and saw the bird that was making the noise. I knew right away it was a Snipe or a Woodcock doing their aerial display. (After referencing my field guide, it was determined that snipes were displaying.)

Beautifully striped with a very long beak, these waders nest in dense vegetation and tend only to be seen when accidentally put to flight. That is unless their display flight is witnessed. During the breeding season, snipe display above the pastures in which they breed & Goose Lake Prairie is a prime example of excellent habitat. They first fly up high and then plunge downward vibrating their outer tail feathers to produce a curious whirring sound, called drumming.

To watch this display in action is amazing...Watching the sky when a bunch are up there is awesome...

It is so weird that the sound they make comes from their feathers vibrating instead of their throats.

The snipe flight behavior reminds me of aerial combat maneuvers of a fighter jet.

(These last 2 photos were taken 2 years ago, because I did not get any ground shots on this day.)

* Also known as Wilson's Snipe

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