Painted-snipes Of Vietnam – Rostratulidae

The Greater Painted-snipe is a plump-wading bird. The female shows brighter plumage than the male, and their roles are reversed during the breeding season.



The adult male has golden-buff, brown, and black upperparts, mainly on the upper wing coverts, forming a kind of barring. On the back, we can see a golden V on the mantle. The tail is short and shows a similar pattern. The underparts and underwing are white. The head and neck are greyish-brown with an ashy-grey wash on the neck.

The throat is brown-streaked white. The throat and neck sides are edged whitish, forming a separation between them and the white lower underparts. The crown shows a creamy median stripe and we can see a pale golden eye patch. The long, slightly down-curved bill is pale yellow at the base and pale brown towards the tip. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are greenish-yellow.


The adult female has brighter plumage with a similar pattern and longer wings. The upper parts and wings are dark bronze-green, narrowly barred black. We can see the buff-white V on the mantle, as in male.  The underparts are white. The head and neck are dark rufous, and the white eye patch contrasts strongly. The crown shows a creamy-white stripe too. Bill, eyes, legs, and feet are similar to males.


The Greater Painted-snipe feeds on invertebrates and seeds. Invertebrates include insects such as grasshoppers and crickets, snails, earthworms and crustaceans. The seeds are those of several grasses, rice and millet. It forages by probing in shallow water into the soft soil, moving the bill sideways in semi-circular movement.


The Greater Painted-snipe frequents tropical and subtropical wetlands, up to 1800 metres of elevation in the Himalayas, and much lower elsewhere. This bird is found in swamps, reedbeds, ricefields, muddy margins of pools, freshwater lakes, mudflats with marsh grass and mangroves. This species avoids the dry locations and prefers the recently flooded areas


The Greater Painted-snipe is omnivorous, feeding on insects, snails, earthworms and crustaceans. It also takes plant matter such as seeds, rice and millet. It probes as the other snipes (Gallinago) with the long bill into the soft soil. It also moves head and bill sideways in shallow water with semi-circular movements. This snipe is mainly crepuscular and may also feed at nigh. It is often seen alone, sometimes in small groups and rarely in large flocks.

The Greater Painted-snipe often has polyandrous mating system, but it also may be monogamous when densities are low. The females can mate with 2, 3 or 4 males every year. The female leaves the male after the laying, to mate with another one while the previous male performs all the nesting duties.

The “spread-wing display” is used in several situations, as well sexual as territorial. This display is mainly performed by females. The male uses it only in defence.

Both wings or only one can be extended according to the situation. The tail is fanned and lowered. In full display, the birds are facing each other with both wings extended and slightly arched forwards. The tail is fanned and raised, and bill and body are lowered towards the male or the intruder.

The females are highly territorial. During the courtship displays, the female preens its future mate before the “spread-wing display”. She circles the male while uttering soft calls. Once the copulation occurred, they stand close to each other and call, while the female sometimes opens and lifts the wings upwards.

The Greater Painted-snipe is sedentary in Asia and Egypt. In the other parts of the range, short distance seasonal movements are observed according to food sources and nesting-sites. The race “australis” is strongly nomadic in Australia. The bird remains solitary outside the breeding period, but small to large flocks may gather at abundant food sources and in suitable habitats.

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