Australian Painted Snipe

Did you know?

When threatened, the Painted Snipe performs a threat display which involves extending both wings to the ground, raising the tail and sometimes emitting a loud hiss. This display makes the bird appear larger and displays the bright colours of its plumage.

Most calls are made by the female. Calls include a soft mellow 'koo-oo koo-oo' that sounds like blowing across the mouth of a bottle; a penetrating 'cook-cook-cook' can be heard at dusk and dawn; and a 'kek', 'kak' or 'kit' sound is made when disturbed
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
September to December, but varies.
Clutch Size: 
16 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The female Painted Snipe is more brightly coloured than the male. The throat, neck and head of the adult female is black with a chestnut gloss. There is a pale ring around the eye, a pale stripe on the crown, a pale breast and a pale stripe over the shoulders, extending into a V down the mantle. The wings and back are a metallic green in colour and finely barred with black, bronze and chestnut. The legs and feet are blue-green. The adult male Painted Snipe is smaller with duller colourings. The head, neck and chest is streaked grey-brown, with buff stripes on the back, buff, brown wings and black marbling. Juveniles are similar in colour and markings to the male. This species is also known as the Australian Painted Snipe, or the Greater Painted Snipe

Similar species: 

The Painted Snipe is not a true snipe. It is less agile, flies more slowly with legs dangling rather like a rail, and it is nomadic. True snipe are strictly migrants generally arriving in Australia in late August.

Where does it live?

The Painted Snipe has a scattered distribution in Australia, primarily occuring along the east coast from north Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, and including the majority of New South Wales and Victoria. Scattered records indicate that it may also occur in western Queensland, throughout Western Australia and the Northern Territory. A single record is known from Tasmania.


The Painted Snipe inhabits inland and coastal shallow freshwater wetlands, occuring in both ephemeral and permanent wetlands, particularly where there is grass. Individuals have been spotted in artificial dams, sewage ponds and waterlogged grasslands.

Seasonal movements: 

The movements of the Painted Snipe are poorly known and it may be a migratory species. Sightings of individuals are erratic, and it is thought the species is likely to be nomadic in response to suitable conditions, such as floods.

What does it do?

The Painted Snipe forages at night on mud flats and in shallow water. It feeds on invertebrates such as worms, snails and water beetles, and plant material such as seeds.


The Painted Snipe nests on the ground amongst tall vegetation such as grass tussocks and reeds. Nests, which consist of a scrape in the ground lined with grass and leaves, are often located on small islands. The female is polyandrous, meaning that she leaves the male to look after the young while she moves on to mate with as many other males as she can attract. Incubation of the eggs and brooding of the young is therefore done by the male alone.

Living with us

The Painted Snipe is affected by habitat destruction by cattle grazing; clearing of riparian vegetation for agriculture; drainage, salinisation and pollution of wetlands and waterbodies; and alteration of flooding regimes due to the regulation of inland waterways. Painted Snipe are also preyed upon by introduced feral animals, such as cats and foxes.This species is listed as endangered in New South Wales.

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