Latham’s Snipe – courtship display

Composite of 4 sequential images to show the dive with open tail feathers.

“Snipe tend to be secretive and quiet while on migration but they are very visible and vocal at their breeding grounds, especially during courtship. The Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) was easy to spot during our trip to Japan in June and we saw a number of courtship flight displays (usually April-June).

A presumed male on a high tension wire.

“The presumed males tend to seek a high vantage point, so as to be visible to the females; usually a utility pole (electrical pole, wire) or tree. They call loudly from the vantage point as well when in flight. I would consider their courtship display flights accompanied by advertising calls one of the wonders of the bird watching world; it has to be seen to be appreciated.

A presumed male calling from the ground.

“The presumed male flies high up (30-40 meters) and circles around, calling out for 35-40 seconds or longer. The terminal end of the display is often a dramatic dive with an accompanying noise made by opening the tail feathers to cause air resistance. The bird may then continues to call from the vantage point or even from the ground (observed twice).

A sonogram and waveform of the extended and regular calls.
Another sonogram of other extended calls made at the end of the dive.

“These displays are repeated. They often occur in the early morning or evenings (our observation as well) but are said to also occur at night. The calls made in flight are regular at 2-3 calls per second, from my recordings. Each call last 1-1.5 seconds and is a low frequency sound (described by various authors in different ways). There are also longer calls made at the beginning or end of the display that can last 7-8 seconds.

Bird in flight.

“Call recording HERE.

Bird on pole.

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, MalaysiaIpoh, Perak, Malaysia
11th June 2019

Location: Kushiro, East Hokkaidō, Japan

Oh-Jishigi. Latham’s Snipe. Bird Research News 2007, Vol.4 No.10. Japan Bird Research Association (PDF).
2. Latham’s snipe project LINK.
3. Mark Brazil. Birds of Japan. Helm Field Guides 2018.
4. Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

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