Latham's Snipe

Did you know?

When breeding in Japan, Latham's Snipe have spectacular display flights and are called 'Thunder Birds' for the drumming noise made by their outer tail feathers.

The alarm call, given when flying off, is 'krek krek'.
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May to July
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Basic Information
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What does it look like?

Latham's Snipe is the largest snipe in Australia, with cryptic, mainly brown, plumage. The bill is long and straight, the wings rather short and pointed and the tail is long. It has short legs and when folded, the wings project well past the tail, giving a pointed look. The upper body is boldly patterned with black, brown and white. There is a bold narrow dark brown cheek stripe and dark line through the eye. The sexes are similar and, unlike most migratory waders, do not show a lot of seasonal variation. The eyes are set well back on the distinctive rounded head. Snipe are very shy and wary and burst from cover when disturbed, zig-zaggingg off with a very fast flight, with a 'crek' call, before dropping to cover again. This is often the first indication that they are around, as they are usually well-camouflaged when still. This species is also known as the Japanese Snipe.

Similar species: 

Latham's Snipe is very similar in size and shape to Swinhoe's Snipe,G. megala, and Pin-tailed Snipe, G. stenura. Latham's Snipe is larger and has more pointed wingtips in flight. They are all very similar however in the field.

Where does it live?

Latham's Snipe is a non-breeding migrant to the south east of Australia including Tasmania, passing through the north and New Guinea on passage. Latham's Snipe breed in Japan and on the east Asian mainland.


Latham's Snipe are seen in small groups or singly in freshwater wetlands on or near the coast, generally among dense cover. They are found in any vegetation around wetlands, in sedges, grasses, lignum, reeds and rushes and also in saltmarsh and creek edges on migration. They also use crops and pasture.

Seasonal movements: 

Latham's Snipe is a migratory wader, moving to Australia in our warmer months. Birds may fly directly between Japan and Australia, stopping at a few staging areas. They leave their breeding areas from August to November, arriving in Australia mainly in September. They leave the south-east by the end of February, moving northwards along the coast. Most have left Queensland by mid-April.

What does it do?

Latham's Snipe feed by thrusting their long bill into mud with an up and down 'sewing machine' action in soft mudflats or shallow water. They roost in the day and feed at night, early morning or evening. They are omnivorous, eating seeds and plant material, worms, spiders and insects, some molluscs, isopods and centipedes.


Latham's Snipe breeds in Japan and on the East Asian mainland, on dry ground such as grassy hillsides and forest clearings. The males have spectacular display flights, rising in the air and then diving to the ground, in courtship or to defend territory. The female incubates in a shallow depression lined with grasses and leaves.

Living with us

Modification of habitats in Japan and Australia is thought to affect populations. Previously, Latham's Snipe was a game bird and hunted.

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