Eastern Solitary Snipe.
There has been a good deal of confusion in the past between this bird and the wood-snipe, which is curious, because, although both snipe, and both big ones, they seem to lay themselves out, as it were, to be as different as possible from each other. The wood-snipe is as near a woodcock as it can be without actually being one; the solitary snipe is an intensified snipe in every way. It is the lightest in colour of all our snipes, as the wood-snipe is the darkest; it is a typical snipe in its flight, though naturally not so active as the ordinary birds, since it is a foot or more long, and weighs from five to eight ounces, as much as many woodcock we get here. Its shape is not in the least woodcocky, and its call is an aggravated snipe-call, " a harsh screeching " imitation of the note of the common snipe, says Hume, who notes that this bird goes off calling, while the wood-snipe is usually silent. In the hand the pure white belly of this bird, so different from the barred under-surface of the wood-snipe, is at once noticeable ; its general appearance is that of the pintail rather than the fantail snipe, and it has several pairs of narrowed feathers in the tail, about the only point, apart from size, it has in common with the wood-snipe ; although even here the colour of the feathers, white with dark bars, is quite different.
The solitary snipe is, it is true, a Himalayan bird like the wood-snipe, but it rarely penetrates into other parts of India, though it has been got as far away as Benares and the Wynaad, and is a regular breeder in the Chin and Shan Hills as well as in the Himalayas. In the winter it comes lower down, but very seldom strays from the bases of the hills. In summer it ranges up to 15,000 feet, and outside our limits breeds on mountain ranges in Central and Eastern Asia, and migrates south as far as Persia and Pekin. In spite of its title of solitary, it is not so much so as the wood-snipe, which is always alone, but may be found near one or two more of its kind as well as singly. It is nowhere numerous, though Hume estimates its numbers as at least ten times those of the wood-snipe; but it must be remem¬ bered that this bird is far less retiring, and is found in the low cover that satisfies ordinary snipes, and often haunts the margins of little streams in bare ravines where the cover is very scanty. Now and then, however, it may be found actually in forest, and Mr. Stuart Baker shot a breeding male in North Cachar in such a situation. Its bill is less sensitive and, therefore, less adapted for boring for worms even than that of the pintail, and its chief food appears to be small insects and tiny snails, and, although good eating, it is, in Hume's opinion, not equal to the rest of our snipes.
Its nuptial flight is much like that of the common snipe, but it descends from its pitch more slowly, and the sound it produces, though of the same general character, is recognizably different, as might have been expected from the different structure of the outer tail-feathers; it is harsher, and more of a buzz than a bleat. The nest is of a very slight character, and the eggs, four in number, are, according to Oates, easily distinguished from the eggs of all other snipes by their pinkish buff ground colour. They are clouded with dull purple and spotted boldly with dark brown, these spots tending to be elongated and to run in streaks. In the Himalayas breeding begins in May.
The Hindustani name, Ban Chaha, is the same as that applied to the wood-snipe, so that natives as well as Europeans seem to confuse these two very distinct birds. The Khasin name is Simpoo, the Assamese Boner Kocha, and the Cachari Daodidap gophu ; the Nepalese Bharka simply means " Snipe " generally.