Studying the wintering ecology and migratory behaviour of the Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) and Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in southeastern Spain

Since winter 2008-2009 we are catching and ringing both species of Snipes aided by mist-nets in southeast Spain (Murcia), from October to February. The study area is located in the mouth of a small creek to the Mar Menor (a small salty lagoon separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow sandbar, La Manga). The vegetation is mainly composed by reeds (Phragmites australis), bellow which there are small swallow water puddles making it a good site for Common and Jack snipes for foraging and resting.


A Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) with a geolocator attached to a plactic ring on its tibia

With this project we aim to know more about the migratory behaviour and wintering strategies of both species: stopover and breeding areas, site fidelity, stopover duration as well as movements in winter and during migration.


Radio-tagged Common Snipe

In the winter 2012-2013 we placed light-level geolocators on 30 individuals (21 Common Snipes and 9 Jack Snipes) to get data on their migratory routes, stopover sites and breeding areas. In the winter 2013-2014, in addition to start retrieving some geolocators, we placed radio-transmitters to radio-track some individuals and get data on local wintering movements and daily schedules.

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Paula locating a radio-tagged Common Snipe on its roosting site

We are currently analyzing the geolocator data and working on a new manuscript that will hopefully be published next year 2016. So far we can tell that all birds are from Russian origin and like to forage in a golf course close to the study area.

According to the Wintering Bird Atlas of Spain, the Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) has a wide wintering distribution but an unknown wintering population. This lack of information makes it the poorest known wader species in Spain due to its criptic behaviour and crepuscular habits. Globally, only few studies have looked into the wintering ecology of the species in southern Scandinavia and France. Therefore there is still lack of information on this understudied species. Furthermore, its migratory routes and breeding areas are still unknown for most of their populations.

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Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) well camouflaged during daylight hours. Photo by Yaiza Aragón

The Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is a better known species, although its winter population in Spain is still unknown due to its difficult detectability. Foreign ringing recoveries showed that some individuals wintering in Spain breed in Finland and Scandinavia but there is still lack of detailed data on migratory behaviour and wintering strategies.

A better knowledge of these two understudied species will allow us to make a better plan for conservation strategies.

– Asensio B, Carrascal L.M 1987. Migratología de las agachadizas communes (Gallinago gallinago) invernantes en la peninsula ibérica. Ardeola 34(2):225-242

– Hering J, 2000. On the wintering of the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in Saxony. Mitteilungen des Vereins Saechsischer Ornithologen, 8:526-530

– Hoodless A, Draycott R, Tucker K 2000. Winter habitat-use and diet of the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) in south-west England. International Wader Studies, 11:57-62

– Leray G, Lepley M, Defos du Ray P, Vaslin M, Mondain-Monval J-Y 2006. Some behavioural aspects of Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus), wintering in France. International Wader Studies, 13:102-106

– Minias P, Włodarczyk R, Meissner W, Remisiewicz M, Kaczmarek K, Czapulak A, Chylarecki P, Wojciechowski A & Janiszewski T 2010. The migration system of Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago on autumn passage through Central Europe. Ardea, 98 (1): 13-19

– Pedersen, M.B. 1995. Opportunistic behavior as key-determinant in the winter strategy of the Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus in southern Scandinavia. Wader Study Group Bulletin, 78: 23-26

– SEO/BirdLife 2012. Atlas de las aves en invierno en España 2007-2010. Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente-SEO/BirdLife. Madrid


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