American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Pin-tailed Snipe – Alaska

On the evening of July 28, guides Doug Gochfeld, Ryan O’Donnell, and Scott Schuette found a snipe that they suspected to be a Pin-tailed Snipe (Code 5) on St. Paul Island, one of the Pribilof Islands. They saw the snipe only in flight, but their views and photos of it were good enough to eliminate Jack Snipe. Gochfeld, O’Donnell, and Schuette thought it looked smaller and shorter-billed than Wilson’s and Common Snipes, the expected species on the Pribilofs. They were able to eliminate Common Snipe from consideration due to the bird’s heavily-barred underwings and the lack of a relatively wide white trailing edge on the upperwing.

The snipe was not seen on the 29th or 30th, but during that time, the observers became more confident that it was a Pin-tailed. Other features that were good for that identification were a supercilium that was very wide in front of the eye and feet that clearly projected beyond the tail.

ABArare Pin-tailed Snipe

ABArare Pin-tailed Snipe 02photos by Doug Gochfeld

Pin-tailed Snipe has a distinctive call, but the bird was silent on the 28th. Gochfeld writes, “…on the 30th I’d listened to a few recordings of Pin-tailed Snipes and read a couple of descriptions of calls. On the afternoon of the 31st I was up there [where the snipe was found earlier] with two clients not looking for the snipe at all. I heard a call and said something like ‘Wow, that sounds like a Pin-tailed Snipe.’ I looked around and a snipe was high in the air flying away from us.”

He continues, “…after we had come back to near where we initially had it I heard it again, this time loudly. I picked it up offshore heading west and it curved back over land and went high and then dropped low and out of sight. A couple of minutes later as we started to walk towards it, I heard it again and it flew right by us but high.” Gochfeld left the area and returned later with more birders. He writes, “After dinner I picked up the clients and was joined by Scott Schuette, Ryan O’Donnell, and two USFWS employees: Greg Thomson and Houston Flores. We flushed it twice more, but the second time was useless and it went dead away and low and disappeared.

“It called three (or maybe 4) times during the first flush and everybody got a decent look at it while just Ryan, and Scott, and I heard it. Ryan was recording, and so was able to pick up three calls. However, you can tell how windy it was when you listen to the recording.” [It is the last recording listed on the page that opens when you click the link. To hear it, click the play button located to the left of “Pin-tailed Snipe”.]

This is the first record of Pin-tailed Snipe for the Pribilofs and the fifth or sixth (and the first away from Attu) for the ABA Area. Other birds seen on St. Paul the past week have included Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Code 3), Gray-tailed Tattler (Code 3; both shorebirds are regular during fall migration), and the White-tailed Eagle (Code 4) that was originally reported in May, which was refound on the 24th after a five-week absence and seen again on the 26th. You can read the full St. Paul rare bird alert here, and more information about tours offered by TDX, the local native corporation, can be found here.