Monday, April 17, 2017 Wilson's Snipe

Seward, Alaska

While driving slowly down a quiet road in Forest Acres, a bird suddenly flew low in front of my car and landed at the side of the road. A WILSON’S SNIPE! I immediately stopped, turned off the ignition, and rolled down the window to watch.

The snow had recently retreated right next to the road, revealing a bedraggled assortment of spruce cones, spruce needles, twigs, gravel, dirt, and emerging dandelions. The brown streaky-stripy-spotted Snipe blended in perfectly. Fortunately, after long seconds of watchful immobility, the long-billed Snipe chose to ignore the paparazzi in the car blind.

It was fascinating to observe the chunky shorebird with short legs and long toes bob gently as it deliberated, then thrust that long beak into the dirt. Probing deep into the duff, it pulled out several invertebrates including what looked like a small earthworm. By vibrating its head like a tiny jackhammer, lunch quickly shot up the bill and down the hatch.

I understand the tip of the bill is quite flexible and can also determine the difference between a small cold pebble and a small cold invertebrate. 

The Snipe mined the rubble along the roadside and found a treasure-trove of delicacies to eat. I would not have recognized the café potential here, and was impressed and pleased to learn from an expert. As a dandelion-weeder, I too have often found earthworms and slugs in the dandelion roots. I wonder if the emerging dandy greens attracted the Snipe?

This unexpected encounter of a usually hard to observe Snipe sure made my day!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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