Friday, March 23, 2012
Snipe Hunting: The REAL Snipe and the Joke....
The snipe is part of the wader family Scolopacidae. The 15 typical snipes in the genus Gallinago are the closest relatives of the woodcocks.
Snipe search for invertebrates in the mud with a "sewing-machine" action of their long bills. The sensitiveness of the bill, though to some extent noticeable in many sandpipers, is in snipes carried to an extreme by a number of filaments, belonging to the fifth pair of nerves, which run almost to the tip and open immediately under the soft cuticle in a series of cells. They give this portion of the surface of the premaxillaries, when exposed, a honeycomb-like appearance. Thus the bill becomes a most delicate organ of sensation, and by its means the bird, while probing for food, is at once able to distinguish the nature of the objects it encounters, though these are wholly out of sight.
For the truly gullible:
A snipe hunt, a form of wild-goose chase that is also known as a fool's errand, is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises such as banging rocks together. Incidentally, the snipe (a family of shorebirds) is difficult to catch for experienced hunters, so much so that the word "sniper" is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.