According to legend, the snipe doesn’t really exist, much to the chagrin of the inexperienced camper.
But in some places, the joke might be on the joker. Snipes do exist, and the Wilson’s snipe can be seen in Orange County this time of year, though it will soon head north for the summer.
Seeing a snipe can be a difficult proposition, perhaps contributing to its legendary non-existence.
Inhabitants of marshes, wet meadows and river banks, they are strikingly patterned birds, but the patterns serve to break up their shapes. The result: the birds can hide in plain sight, blending in so well with, say, a rocky or pebbly habitat that they’re virtually invisible until flushed by an approaching intruder.
Then, they might fly off in a zigzag with a harsh cry.
In their breeding territories, including parts of northern California, they are famous for making another sound: a kind of “winnowing” produced by their tail feathers as they make a steep dive from on high.
While that display won’t be seen in Orange County, the birds themselves can be if you visit known snipe hot spots. They’re often encountered along the Santa Ana River in Anaheim.
By the end of April they’ll be gone – truly non-existent, at least locally, until fall.
Scientific name: Gallinago delicata.
And all this time I thought snipes were an urban legend. Who knew?? I wonder if they eat grunion??