1485. Gallinago stenura.
The Pintail Snipe.
Scolopax stenura, Kuhl, Bonap. Ann. Star. Nat. Bologna, iv, p. 335 (1830); Seebohm, Charadr. p. 477. Scolopax horsfieldii, J. B. Gray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool. ii, pl. 54 (1833-34). Gallinago horsfieldii, G. R. Gray, List Sp. B. Brit. Mus. pt. iii, p. 110 (1844); Hume & Oates, S. F. iii, p. 182. Gallinago stenura *, Gray, Gen. B. iii, p. 583; Blyth, Cat. p. 272; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 674 ; Beavan, Ibis, 1868, p. 392 ; Blanford, J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. 2,p. 191 ; Godw.-Austen, J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 273; xiv, pt. 2, p. 84; Walden, Ibis, 1873, p. 318; G. F. L. Marshall, S. F.i, p. 423; Cripps, ibid. p. 496; Hume, S. F. ii, p. 294; Parker, ibid. p. 335; Le Messurier, S. F. iii, p. 380; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 156; Armstrong, S. F. iv, p. 340; Butler, S. P. v, pp. 212, 232; Hume. ibid. pp. 214, 329; Hume & dav. S. F. vi, p. 459; Hume & Bourd. S. F. vii, p. 39 ; Davids. & Wenden, ibid. p. 88; Ball, ibid. p. 228; Cripps, ibid. p. 301 ; Hume, ibid. p. 483 ; id. Cat. no. 870; Bingham, S. F. viii, p. 196 ; Scully, ibid. p. 354 ; Butler, ibid. p. 501; Legge, Birds Ceylon, p. 816; Hume & Marsh. Game B. iii, p. 339, pl.; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 83; Butler, ibid. p. 428; Reid, S. F. x, p. 68; Rayment, ibid. p. 172; Davidson, ibid. p. 320; Davison, ibid, p. 413; Oates, B. B. ii. p. 383; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 344; Hume & Cripps, S. F. xi, p. 319; Sharpe, Yark. Miss., Aves, p. 144; id. Cat. B. M. xxiv, p. 619.
This species is distinguished from the preceding (1) by having normally 26 tail-feathers (10 soft broad feathers in the middle, and 8 narrow stiff feathers, shorter than the others, on each side) instead of the 14 in G. coelestis. (Occasionally there are, in G. stenura, according to Hume and other good authorities, as many as 9 lateral feathers on one side or on both, and on the other hand some of the feathers are often wanting. These feathers as a rule can only be seen by turning back the tail-coverts.) (2) By the wing-lining and axillaries in G. stenura being regularly and evenly barred throughout with blackish-brown and white, the bars of the two colours about equally broad: (3) by the bill in G. stenura being scarcely broader towards the point and furnished with few pores ; that of G. coelestis being considerably dilated and broader for the terminal inch and pitted with numerous pores, which are best seen in the dried skin: (4) by the outer web of the 1st primary being brown in G. stenura, white or whitish in G. coelestis: (5) by G. coelestis having broad white tips to the secondaries, whilst G. stenura has narrow white edges or none.
As a rule the colour of G. stenura is slightly duller than that of G. coelestis throughout the upper parts, and the two may often be distinguished by this alone.
Length 10.5; tail 1.8; wing 2.25; tarsus 1.3; bill from gape 2.4 (males 2.12 to 2.5; females 2.38 to 2.62). The weight according to Hume, from whom most of these details are taken, averages 3.91 oz. in males, 4.2 in females.
Distribution. The Pintail Snipe breeds, so far as is known, in Eastern Siberia as far west as the Yenesei Valley, and migrates in summer to South-eastern Asia and, the Malay Archipelago. It is very rare in the Punjab, Sind, and N. W. Provinces, Rajputana, and Guzerat; but increases in number to the southward and eastward, and is found throughout the Peninsula in winter, predominating in Mysore and Southern India, whilst on the highlands of the Deccan, in Bombay, and the Central Provinces, and even somewhat farther south, the Common Snipe is more abundant. In Ceylon the Pintail is very common, and whilst in Orissa and Bengal the two species are on the whole equally distributed, everywhere farther east, in Assam, Sylhet, Cachar, and throughout Burma, G. stenura is the Snipe of the country, and only stragglers of G. coelestis are found. As the Pintail arrives earlier in the year and leaves later than the Fantail, it is the more common species before the middle of October and after the end of February in some places, for instance the neighbourhood of Calcutta, where the two species are on the whole equally abundant.
Habits, &c. The habits of the Pintail Snipe are so similar to those of the Fantail, that only a few differences need be noted. The present species arrives in India fully a fortnight or three weeks earlier and leaves later, but up to the present time no information has been obtained of its breeding within our limits. Both species are usually found in similar localities, but the Pintail feeds to a much greater extent on grubs, caterpillars, insects, Crustacea, and mollusca, and much less on worms, its bill being far less sensitive and consequently not so well adapted for searching for food in mud. Doubtless because of the difference in foods, the present species is much more frequently found in dry grass or stubble, or low jungle, than its ally is. The cry is slightly different, but I have never been able to clearly recognize the distinction; Hume says the note of the Pintail is sharper and more screechy; Legge that it is less harsh. The flight of this Snipe is certainly heavier and less swift.
* Often printed sthenura, which however is incorrect. As Oates has shown, the name was originally printed stenura by Bonaparte. Hume, it is true, in ' Game Birds,' p. 339 note, writes under the belief that sthenura was the original spelling, but he is mistaken. The spelling sthenura appears to have originated in a misprint or mistake (Boie, Isis, 1833, p. 1077).