Great Snipe Makes Avis Dam A Mecca For Birdwatchers

20 Oct 2023

In the recreation area around the reservoir on the eastern edge of Windhoek, walkers have been confronted with a curious sight for the past two weeks. On the floodplain-like lowland on the south-eastern shore of the lake, photographers stand next to each other, with tripods and huge lenses. But there is nothing in front of them to explain this crowd. Just a big, muddy puddle....

... in which, if you look closely with binoculars, you can see a bird wading back and forth. With brown, white and beige patterned plumage and a dark long, almost ice-keel shaped beak.

In fact, it is this bird that gets the 'paparazzi' going: a Great Snipe (Gallinago media) that breeds in northern and eastern Europe and spends the European winter months in southern Africa. It is 26 cm to 30 cm long and has a wingspan of 42 cm to 50 cm (more on Wikipedia).


Sensation at the Avis Dam in Windhoek: Great Snipe (Gallinago media), which breeds in northern and eastern Europe, winters in southern Africa and was sighted in Windhoek for the first time. 
Photo: Sibylle Hähner


The Great Snipe feeds mainly on insects and their larvae, earthworms and molluscs, which it picks out of the ground with its long bill. It is therefore found in bogs and on wet river floodplains. In Namibia, it has only been sighted very rarely - on the riverbanks in the extreme north-east of the country.

Travelling all the way from Cape Town

At first, experts could hardly believe that the bird at the Avis Dam near Windhoek was actually a Great Snipe. But the photo that circulated on social media left no doubt - and triggered a real double snipe hype. The bird fans came not only from all near and far corners of Namibia, but even from Cape Town.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the populations of this bird species have been declining for decades. Therefore, the IUCN has classified the Great Snipe as near threatened. The main reason for the declining population numbers is habitat loss and the contributing climate change.

Namibia has a fascinating birdlife with around 620 species. Up-to-date information is available on the website and the Facebook page of the Namibia Bird Club.

Sven-Eric Stender

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