Australian Painted-Snipe

Habitat: Wetland

The Australian Painted Snipe inhabits many different types of shallow, brackish or freshwater terrestrial wetlands, especially temporary ones which have muddy margins and small, low-lying islands. Suitable wetlands usually support a mosaic of low, patchy vegetation, as well as lignum and canegrass.

The Australian Painted Snipe often occurs in small parties, which are sometimes comprised by birds of a single sex. They usually spend much of the day loafing quietly beneath the cover of low shrubs or other vegetation; they become active around dusk and remain active throughout the night. 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. 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.

The Australian Painted Snipe usually remains among the cover of wetland vegetation while foraging. It feeds at night, probing the soft mud with its long bill as it walks, pecking at seeds and taking small invertebrates.

Little is known of the breeding of the Australian Painted Snipe. 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. Three or four dull-coloured, spotted and blotched eggs are laid, and these are incubated (16 days) by the male, which also provides most care for the young. 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. Breeding season is from September to December (but can vary).

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.