The Jack Snipe, is a small stocky wader. It is the smallest snipe, and the only one in the genus Lymnocryptes which is quite distinct from other snipes or woodcocks.
Adults are smaller than common snipe and have relatively shorter bill. Length is 18–25 cm, wingspan is 30–41 cm and weight is 33–73 g. The body is mottled brown on top and pale underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye. The wings are pointed and narrow, and yellow back stripes are visible in flight. When seen, the distinctive bobbing movement, as if the bird is on springs, has an almost hypnotic quality.
The head pattern of jack snipe differs from common snipe and other species in the genus Gallinago, in that there is no central crown-stripe; instead, there are two pale lateral crown-stripes, which are separated from the supercilium by an area of dark plumage.
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The Jack Snipe feeds on earthworms, insects (adults and larvae), freshwater and terrestrial small molluscs, and sometimes grass and seeds.
It forages mainly at dusk or by night. It probes in mud with the bill, or picks up prey items from the surface. While foraging, it performs a remarkable up-and-down rhythmical bouncing action. The reason of this behaviour is currently unknown. It usually feeds singly or in small, loose groups of 4-5 birds.
The Jack Snipe uses its cryptic plumage and adopts an effective camouflage posture by flattening against the ground just in front of an advancing human. The pale lines of the upperparts are aligned with the vegetation, making the bird almost invisible. The bird may flush at less than 1 metre, and some birds can be stepped or captured by hand.
During the breeding season, the Jack Snipe male holds a large territory of several hectares (up to 20 ha). The high aerial display is an advertising territorial behaviour. This display is performed at dawn and dusk, and sometimes during the day.
The bird rises from the ground until 50-60 metres high at angle of 45/50°. Then, it flies in straight line or in wide circles, and dives steeply at similar angle, often rolling over with half-folded wings before zooming upwards again. The “galloping horse” song can be heard during this flight. This species is usually monogamous.
The Jack Snipe is migratory, but adults and young moult in August/September, in or close to their breeding areas. Then, they move SW across Europe between mid-September and mid-November. They reach their non-breeding areas from October, but mainly from November in tropics.
The return occurs from March to mid-April, and they reach their breeding grounds between mid-April and mid-May, mostly late May in Siberia.
Unlike other snipes that fly in zigzag, the Jack Snipe has direct flight with rapid wingbeats. When flushed, it rises from almost underfoot, fluttering-up with some hesitant wingbeats, and usually dropping after a short distance.
These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, also plant material.
The breeding season occurs from May to early September. The Jack Snipe nests in a well-hidden site, on floating bogs or on drier ground among the vegetation. The nest is a shallow depression lined with grass and leaves.
The female lays 3-4 olive/brownish eggs with dark markings. She incubates during 24 days. The chicks are a darker version of the adults. They are precocial and able to walk very soon after hatching. Both parents tend the young which fledge about three weeks after hatching. They become independent a few days later. This species may produce two broods per season.
This species is a rare visitor to Maldives. In Maldives, this species is protected by law since 22nd May 2003.