Area of distribution

The great snipe breeds in the western and central Palaearctic. Within the area of its distribution there are two isolated populations different somewhat morphologically and behaviorally. The first of these - the western one - representing more than 60% of the European population (excluding Russia), is found in the mountains of Sweden and Norway. The second one, called the eastern one, inhabits the area from the north-eastern Poland and the Lubelszczyzna region (representing the south-western border of the distribution), Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States to Russia. It is assumed that the eastern border of the distribution area of the great snipe sets Yenisei river.


Figure 1. The distribution range of the great snipe Gallinago media. Reference: http://www.birdguides.com

Great snipes are the most numerous in Russia, where, according to various estimates, breeds from 125 000 to over 250 000 males. In European countries (except Russia) it is the most numerous in Scandinavia (6 000 -17 000 males) and Belarus (4 600 - 6 000 males). Other populations of European countries are much smaller and do not exceed 800 males.

In Poland, the great snipe is a very rare breeding species. Recent estimates assess the number of displaying males between 700 and 800 (Tomiałojć and Stawarczyk 2003), but the data from the National Environmental Monitoring (Państwowy Monitoring Środowiska) and local ornithologists' groups studying this species (e.g. TP Dubelt) asses that there has been a significant decline in its numbers. By far, the most numerous population occupies the Podlasie region, particularly in the Biebrza Valley, the Upper Narew Valley and the edge of the Knyszyńska Forest (altogehter more than 70% of the Polish population). Other important breeding sites are located in the Lubelszczyzna region, in SE Poland.

The wintering sites of the great snipe are located south of the Sahara, mostly in the equatorial zone. Data gained from the found ringed birds show a large wintering range stretching from Senegal and Mali through Ethiopia and Kenya, to the southern fringes of Zimbabwe and Botswana.


Figure 2. The distribution of the great snipe Gallinago media in Poland. Reference: Dyrcz A.; in Gromadzki M. (ed.). Ptaki (część I). Poradniki ochrony siedlisk i gatunków Natura 2000 – podręcznik metodyczny. Ministerstwo Środowiska, Warszawa 2004.

Breeding habitats

The great snipe occurs in various types of wetland habitats. The Scandinavian population (the western one) breeds in the mountains above the tree line on the eutrophic fens and low herb willow scrubs. In these areas, apart from the herbaceous vegetation, a significant share of the habitat is represented by saplings of various species of willows and birches.

In Poland, great snipes breeds mainly in more or less natural river valleys. In the Biebrza Valley they primarily occupy open fens, sometimes covered with scattered willows. The second important breeding habitats are also floodplain meadows with varying degrees of agricultural use.

Michal Korniluk

Sekretariat PTOP

ul. Ciepła 17 15-471 Białystok tel./fax.: 85 664 22 55, 85 6754862 sekretariat@ptop.org.pl

Biuro Regionalne w Olsztynie

ul. Murzynowskiego 18, 10-684 Olsztyn, tel./fax.: 89 533 68 66 smenderski@ptop.org.pl

Gospodarstwo rolne PTOP

Żywkowo 7 11-220 Górowo Iławeckie tel./fax.: 89 761 82 07 zywkowo@ptop.org.pl

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