(2170) Capella gallinago gallinago.
THE COMMON or FANTAIL SNIPE.
Scolopax gallinago Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 244 (1758) (Sweden). Gallinago caelestis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 286 (part).
Vernacular names. Chaha or Chalia chiriya (Hin.); Chegga, Khada-Kocha (Bengal); Kocha Sorai, Chaha-Sorai, Chergya (Assamese); Bharah (Nepal); Cheh-Lonbi (Manipur); Myay-Woot (Burm.) ; Chaha-Charai (Ooriya); Tibud, Pan-lawa (Mahr.); Mor-Ulan (Tam.); Muku-puredi (Tel.); Kaeswatua (Cingalese); Dao-didap (Cachari); Voh-ti-alin (Kuki); Ti-inrui (Naga); Yegnon (Chindwin); Pazimbon (Kyaukse, Kachin Hills); Lik pakhi (Sind.).
Description. Crown to nape dark brown or blackish-brown, with a few specks of pale rufous ; a broad median stripe and broad superciliaries reaching back to the neck pale rufous ; a line from the bill through the eye and over the ear-coverts dark brown ; sides of the head rufous speckled with brown; neck rufous blotched with brown and with two fairly definite lines of brown on lower throat and neck ; chin and upper throat plain unspotted rufous; back velvety-black ; the scapulars with broad pale rufous edges which form a longitudinal line down each side ; upper back much speckled and barred with rufous, lower back barred with pale rufous ; upper tail-coverts rufous barred with wavy lines of black and with obsolete shaft-streaks ; tail black with narrow bars and a broad terminal band of rufous; lesser wing-coverts brown, tipped rufous, median coverts barred with rufous and brown, and greater-coverts brown with white tips ; first primary brown with white outer web, other primaries brown with narrow white stripes, increasing in width on the innermost; secondaries barred brown and mottled with white on the inner web ; breast dull huff or brownish, with dark brown bars; flanks the same; abdomen white; under tail-coverts rufous or buff and brown, the former colour predominating; lesser under wing-coverts white, much barred with brown, principally so on the edge of the wing; median under wing-coverts white, seldom with much barring; greater coverts brown with a broad white edge; axillaries white, more or less barred with brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown ; bill yellowish-horny or olive-yellow on the basal half, dark horny-brown to blackish on the terminal half; legs and feet dull olive-green or muddy-green, more yellowish in the breeding-season.
Measurements. Wing 127 to 142 mm.; tail 62 to 75 mm.; tarsus about 36 mm.; culmen 60 to 75 mm. Females possibly average a trifle larger in wing and bill measurement but the difference is very slight.
Young birds are like the adult but have pale, sometimes almost white fringes to the feathers of the mantle and wing-coverts.
Nestling. Down of upper plumage rufous-buff; a band across the forehead yellow-buff ; crown freckled with black and with two broad bands of black on either side of the crown ; a line through the eye and another on the cheek black; dorsal, median and lateral lines black, the down white-speckled at the tips ; wings broadly marked with black and a black patch on the side of the breast and on the flanks; lower parts rufous-buff.
Distribution. Northern and North Central Europe to mid-Siberia, the Yenesei probably being the indefinite dividing line between the typical form and G. g. raddii. In India the whole of the continent to Ceylon, Assam, Burma and the Malay States but becoming* more and more rare Eastwards.
Nidification. The Common or Fantail Snipe breeds as early as March and as late as July, many pairs probably having two broods, though the majority will be found laying in April and early May. The eggs are laid in depressions in tufts of grass and are generally well lined with beaten-down shreds of grass etc.,- in some cases very good nests are made. As a rule the nest is well hidden but others are quite exposed. The site selected is one in a swamp or a damp meadow of thick grass, not necessarily very close to water and often at a considerable elevation. The full complement of eggs is always four and these vary greatly in colour and marking. The ground-colour varies from pale yellowish-stone, pale greenish or olive-green to dull brownish, olive or, rarely, dark clear green or buff. The markings may be blotches of dull brown more or less mottled all over, or they may consist of bold blotches and spots of blackish and chocolate-brown. In shape they are conical ovals, the texture close and the surface smooth or, even, glossy. One hundred European eggs (Hartert) average 39.6 x 28.8 mm. : maxima 42.7 X 29.0 and 39.6 x 31.0 mm.; minima 35.0 x 28.4 and 36.8 x 26.7 mm.
Habits. The Fantail Snipe is a migrant, arriving in India by twos and threes at the end of August and by innumerable thousands in September and October. The main trend of its earliest migration route seems to be through North-East India and then South and West, and secondly by a later migration through the North-West of India, this route being traversed by the vast majority of birds, so that in Ceylon and North-West India they arrive much later than in Bengal and Assam. The Snipe is the small game-bird, par excellence, of India. Rapid of flight and twisting strongly as he flies he is good to shoot; occurring in vast numbers he satisfies the most keen of sportsmen, whilst once shot he provides a bonne bouche for any epicure. Bags of 100 couple to one gun have often been made, on one occasion one gun having killed 131 1/2 couple in one day. The note as the Snipe rises is a sharp " pench," often the first notice that he is aflight. They feed on worms, grubs, insects, tiny snails and freshwater shell-fish, larvae etc. but their digestion is so rapid that the examination of stomachs is difficult. In the breeding-season Snipe perform aerial evolutions, sinking to the ground in a curve, with tail stiffly spread so that the wind drums through them. Whilst performing thus the male makes a bleat curiously like that of a kid of a goat some distance away.