The Snipe Hunt (a futile search or endeavor) is probably better known than the Snipe itself. This common elaborate practical joke is typically played on inexperienced unsuspecting campers who are told about a bird called the “snipe”, as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it – such as running around the woods carrying an open bag while making ridiculous smooching noises or banging rocks together.
Normally played at night, the conspirators may also run around the woods yelling “snipe!” to help convince the victim that the birds are plentiful. Sometimes the victim is told to stand still and aim his flashlight into the bag so that the snipes will fly in. The schemers will then often leave the victim(s) alone in the woods “holding the bag”.
Real snipes (a family of shorebirds) are difficult to “bag” by experienced hunters due to their erratic flight pattern, so much so that the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.
The Real Snipe
A snipe is any of about 25 wading game bird species in three genera in the family Scolopacidae. They are characterized by a very long, slender bill and camouflaged plumage. The Gallinago snipes have a nearly worldwide distribution. They prefer marshland, and are extremely difficult to see unless flushed – then they’re very difficult to shoot.
Interestingly, snipes search for invertebrates in the mud with a “sewing-machine” action of their long bills. The sensitivity of the bill, though to some extent noticeable in many sandpipers, is in snipes carried to an extreme by a number of nerve filaments which run almost to the tip. Thus the bill becomes a very delicate organ of sensation giving the bird the ability to instantly distinguish the nature of the objects out of sight under the mud.
Check out this unusual cool Music Video on Wilson’s Snipe…
Here is an excellent link to detailed accounts of the Wilson Snipe behavior, courtship, nesting, eggs, young, plumages, food, voice, field marks and snipe as a game bird. Most of the comments on this site were written over 100 years ago by bird experts. Very interesting!
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