When the sportsman has grasped the difference between fantail and pintail snipes he can, if so disposed, find some mild additional interest in looking through the pintails in his bag to see if by any chance a specimen of Swinhoe's snipe has fallen to his lot; for this very rare species has only recently been added to our lists, and much resembles the pintail in most of its characters.
The distinctive point, as is so often the case with snipe, is to be looked for in the tail; in Swinhoe's snipe the tail-feathers are twenty in number, the six central ones being normal, while the rest, though decidedly narrow in comparison to them, are not so markedly so as to be strikingly noticeable and to be compared to pins. The tail is thus intermediate in type between a fantail snipe's and a pintail's.
It will be remembered that in the fantail all the tail-feathers look much alike, while in the pintail, which has about two dozen tail-feathers altogether, the side ones are very strikingly distinct, and though they are variable in number there are always at least eight normal ones in the centre.
Mr. Stuart Baker was the first to recognize this bird as an Indian species; he shot one himself at Dibrugarh in 1903, and had a skin sent him from the Shan States in December, 1908. That the birds should have been killed in these districts is natural enough, for the natural haunts of the species are Eastern Siberia and Mongolia, Japan, and China, whence in winter it goes to the Philippines, Borneo, and the Moluccas. One would, therefore, expect it would be more likely to turn up in Burma and Tenasserim, and it seems extremely likely that it has been overlooked, for though it is bigger than most pintails, there is nothing about it to catch the eye. In case it breeds anywhere on our eastern border hills, it may be mentioned that the eggs are said to be peculiarly shaped like a woodcock's, and pale cream or buff in ground colour with grey and brown spots.