Archived 2015 topics: Great Snipe (Gallinago media) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

Great Snipe Gallinago media breeds from Scandinavia east through the Baltic States, Poland and into Russia as far as the River Yenisey (95°E), and winters in sub-Saharan Africa (Van Gils et al. 2013). It is currently listed as Near Threatened, because when last assessed it was considered to be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline.

Globally, it has an extremely large range in both the breeding season (>7 million km2) and in winter (>6 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is poorly known, with estimates varying from c. 118,000–1,051,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012) to 450,000–1,000,000 individuals (V. Morozov in litt. 2007), but despite this uncertainty it is very large and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be declining moderately rapidly, at a rate approaching the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer), based largely on trend data collated from across its European range for the period 1990–2000 (BirdLife International 2004).

New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) suggest that the species is no longer declining so steeply overall (although many national populations in C and E Europe are still declining). A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European breeding population has probably declined overall by only c. 5–15% over the last three generations (14.4 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 4.8 years). This trend is driven by the Russian population, which comprises >80% of the European population and is estimated to have declined by c. 5–10% during 2001–2012. Consequently, the species is now classified as Least Concern at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

Based on its distribution, Europe holds just over half of the global breeding range, with the remainder in Asian Russia (especially W Siberia) and N Kazakhstan. When last assessed, there was no evidence of significant declines in these regions, so the species’ global status was based largely on the decline in Europe. Now that rate of decline has slowed, the limited information available implies that globally the species is not declining sufficiently rapidly to be listed as Near Threatened, and should be reclassified as Least Concern.

Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding the recent trend of its breeding population in Central Asia, and of its wintering population in Africa, along with any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.


BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (Conservation Series No. 12).

BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & de Juana, E. (2013) Great Snipe (Gallinago media). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2013). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Wetlands International (2012) Waterbird Population Estimates: 5th edition.

This entry was posted in Africa, Archive, Asia, Europe & Central Asia, Middle East, Waterbirds and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: Great Snipe (Gallinago media) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

  1. Christoph Zöckler says:

    Dear all,

    My plea is to keep the Great Snipe as globally NT, because the decline continues as does the pressure on the species.

    Although their seem to be moderate increases in Finland the population in Russia, where the vast majority (80%) of the species breeds is still declining. See also Lappo et al. 2012). Most areas in Russia are in the temperate zone in floodplains etc. These areas have been particularly affected by the changes in agriculture across the Russian Federation. Most of these areas have been abandoned. While this has had a positive affect in the beginning, with increasing bushes and overgrowing vegetation these habitats disappear at a large scale. Only small parts have been restored. Some of these have been supported by special restoration projects in the floodplains in Moscow region. This has been very successful for the Great Snipe amongst others in the Vinogradowo floodplains (Mischenko et al. 2014), where the population increased from 10-20 in in mid 2000 to > 50 pairs in 2013! However, these measures are very local and are not sufficient to halt the overall decline of the species in Russia. Some of the birds might move northwards and settle in boreal floodplains and even in tundra habitats, as also seen in Finland, but these do not seem to have reached the levels that have been know in these areas from the 1940s and 1950s (Lappo et al. 2012).

    Great Snipe are still hunted in European part of Russia. In fact, special dogs are trained to hunt the snipe and it is an unfortunate passion among Russian hunters. Considering the continuing decline these kind of hunting practices seem not sustainable. Downlisting the species to LC is not justified by the existing data and would send the wrong signals and will make the project work of those working on their protection more difficult.

    Christoph Zöckler
    ArcCona Consulting, Cambridge and
    Manfred-Hermsen Stiftung, Bremen

  2. Dear colleagues,

    I think Great Snipe as still globally NT. In the Russian Federation, supporting most part of the global species population, is recorded decline of numbers.

    The scales of long-term (1980-2012) and short-term (2001-2012) decrease in European part of Russia was assessed in 5-30% both. These data were obtained during analysis of local monitoring in several sites for the project European Red List of Birds. The main reasons are farming abandonment of floodplain meadows and strong increase of negative influence of trainings and competitions of gun dogs in the leks.

    Data on Asian part of Russia (east from Urals) are very poor, but on the expert assessment of Dr. Vladimir Morozov, decrease in numbers also takes place there.

    Downlisting the species to LC will lead to abatement of conservation activities for the species and reduction of sources focusing on wise use management of Great Snipe.

  3. I agree with the above comments that Great Snipe is probably still declining in most of its current range and that it would be wise to keep this in the NT category. Even though the data from Russia is, at best, scarce. Furthermore it is likely that this species is highly vulnerable to vegetation shifts caused by global warming, and change in land use (due to its highly specific habitat requirements). I also want to stress that there is (to the best of my knowledge) no data on habitat fragmentation for most of this species range.

    Dr. Robert Ekblom
    Department of Evolutionary Biology
    Evolutionary Biology Centre
    Uppsala University
    Norbyvägen 18D
    SE- 752 36 UPPSALA
    Tel: +46 (0)18 471 6468

  4. I also suggest to leaf Great Snipe in the category NT. The Lithuanian population despite the conservation efforts is still decreasing although in a little bit smaller rate because of the special habitat management actions of the breeding sites. However, intensification of the agriculture will not support the proper management by farmers of the main breeding habitats for sure. Because of habitats fragmentation and isolation of the breeding local populations, positive trend is not expected in nearest future at all. I far as me know, similar situation is in all baltic countries and Poland. So, do not see the reason why we should downlist this species, having in mind that it also not doing well in Russia and conservation efforts cover a small part of the population only.

  5. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to continue to treat:

    Great Snipe as Near Threatened under criterion A2+3+4.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 August, after which the recommended categorisation will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.