Migratory Birds of the Great Lakes University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
 about habitat birds + science 20 birds
aerialist raptors
copyright UW Sea Grant, writer: L. Wiland, design: T. Yao contact us credits

Wilson’s Snipe, Gallinago gallinago

Visit an open wetland in spring or early summer, and from high in the sky you may hear an eerie pulsing sound—woo-woo-woo-woo-woo. Produced not by voice but by feather vibrations, this sound comes from the courting male Wilson’s Snipe (formerly known as Common Snipe) as it makes aerial dives from hundreds of feet in the air. Outside the courtship season, snipes are secretive and remain concealed in wetland vegetation. When intruders approach, the snipe will flush from cover, performing a series of evasive aerial zigzags. Early hunters who were skilled enough to shoot a fleeing snipe came to be known as “snipers,” a term later adopted by the military.