Recently, when the weather has permitted, I have been trudging around suitable local habitat looking for Jack Snipe. I know that they are around but they are not always easy to locate. Common Snipe, too, have been thin on the ground. I've had a couple of birds shoot out of the vegetation but the pointy wings, white trailing edge to the wing, characteristic zig-zag flight and silly squeaky noise all point to definite Common Snipe. I was explaining to a mate that Jack Snipe have a different flight when flushed and that they only flush when almost crushed under a welly when he asked what was the best ID feature when they are on the ground. Having a few O.K. photos of Jack Snipe I thought I'd use them to try a little ID feature to help.
This first photo of a Jack Snipe's head shows the quite detailed head pattern. There is an obvious split supercilium i.e. two buff lines bisected by a rich brown line above the eye. Common Snipe lacks this feature as you can see in photos 2 and 4. There is also a brown crescent running under the eye of the Jack Snipe which meets the brown eye-stripe behind the eye. If you look at photo 4 you can see that the brown mark under the eye of Common Snipe is obvious but does not extend upwards behind the eye.
|Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus showing deep based bill and head patterning|
|Snipe Gallinago gallinago showing the pale median crown stripe|
|Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus showing the all dark crown without median crown stripe.|
34The famous bobbing-up-and-down feeding action of the Jack Snipe is not much use if the bird you see is not feeding and to be honest I've never seen one feeding, they are always flying away or pretending to be totally invisible in the vegetation.
Back to that flushed flight...if it takes off silently from under your boot, frightens the bezeesus out of you, has a very pointed tail and then shoots back into the vegetation not too far away it's almost certainly a Jack Snipe. On the other hand if it's flight is really erraitic, it squeaks and zooms off over the horizon chances are it was a Common Snipe.