Rostratulidae – Painted Snipe

Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Rostratulidae or painted-snipes, form a family of wader species, composed of two genera: Rostratula and Nycticryphes. At present two species, the South American Painted-snipe and Greater Painted-snipe, are not considered threatened by human activities; however, the Australian Painted-snipe has declined and is considered endangered.

The painted-snipes are short-legged, long-billed birds similar in shape to the true snipes, but their plumage is much more striking. There is sexual dimorphism in both size and plumage, with the males being duller overall and smaller. All three species have large forward pointing eyes. They generally inhabit reedy swamps and marshes, usually in lowlands. Outside of the breeding season painted-snipe are generally solitary in habits. They are crepuscular or even slightly nocturnal in their habits. They are omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates and seeds. Animal prey taken includes annelid worms, snails, aquatic and marsh insects, and crustaceans. The seeds of grasses such as millet and rice are also consumed, and may form a major part of the diet of some populations.

Their breeding biology varies according to genus; the Rostratula painted-snipes are generally polyandrous whereas the lesser painted-snipe is monogamous. The females of the genus Rostratula will bond with several males during a breeding season, but once the eggs are laid the males provide all the incubation and parental care. The nest of both species is a shallow cup, often built on a platform of vegetation. Clutch sizes range from 2 to 4 eggs, which are incubated for 15 to 21 days.

The IOC say that this family consists of just three species, which are:

Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis
Australian Painted Snipe Rostratula australis

South American Painted Snipe Nycticryphes semicollaris

Useful Reading
  • Shorebirds

    An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World by Pter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater - Helm 1986 ISBN: 0713635096 Buy this book from
  • Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

    by Stephen Message & Don Taylor published by Christopher Helm 2006 price ?24.99p See Fatbirder Review ISBN: 071365290X Buy this book from
  • International Wader Study Group

    The International Wader Study Group (IWSG) is an association of amateurs and professionals from all parts of the world interested in Charadrii (waders or shorebirds). Membership of the WSG is currently over 650 worldwide. Members can be found in over 50 countries around the world, including all European countries and the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia. The interests of the group have diversified from its original focus from ringing and migration-related studies to embrace all aspects of wader biology.
Other Links
  • The New Shorebirds Handbook Project

    This is a blog of The New Shorebirds Handbook Project which aims to bring together the current knowledge on shorebird science, conservation and a little bit more. By following the blog, readers could insight into the progress and important milestones of the project and the recent news on the world of waders and a bit more of us, the authors….
  • Wader Quest

    It is vital to to take action to prevent the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from becoming extinct. Wader Quest is an attempt to raise money and awareness to the plight of, not just these tiny wanderers but of wader species worldwide…

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