Family Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes (Scolopacidae)

Least Concern

African Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis)


French: Bécassine africaine German: Afrikanische Bekassine Spanish: Agachadiza africana

Gallinago nigripennis


, 1839,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Sometimes treated as conspecific with G. gallinago, G. paraguaiae and G. andina. Races poorly differentiated; species sometimes considered monotypic. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. n. aequatorialis Rüppell, 1845 – Ethiopia S to Uganda, E DRCongo, Kenya and Tanzania to Malawi, E Zimbabwe and C Mozambique.
  • G. n. angolensis Bocage, 1868 – Angola and N Namibia through N Botswana to Zambia and W Zimbabwe.
  • G. n. nigripennis Bonaparte, 1839 – S Mozambique and South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    25–29 cm; 93–164 g. Resembles G. gallinago and other close relatives, but larger, and has darker upperparts contrasting with white belly; bill often... read more


    Aerial drumming display like that of other smaller Gallinago, given over nesting area both... read more


    Breeds in highland bogs, swampy lake edges and ditches, seasonally flooded grassland and wet... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly larvae of beetles, dragonflies, and flies, annelids, small crustaceans and molluscs, sometimes seeds. Chiefly crepuscular or... read more


    In tropics, laying irregular, Mar–Nov, during or just after rains, e.g. at site in C Kenya, in one year nests with eggs found between... read more


    No regular migration, but may move erratically several hundred kilometres from nesting grounds,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Limits of breeding range very poorly known. Locally common (e.g. in South Africa) to abundant, but, like most snipes, true status... read more

    Recommended citation

    Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). African Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 February 2020).