Stilts and Snipe – waders not props!!

In between my photographic trips, I plan to use the time to expand my wildlife categories. This week I have added two new categories to my Birds section. The two I have chosen are both shoreline birds . The images were taken either along the Chobe River or  Marievale

The idea behind each category is to build up a collection of images on a species and keep replacing them as I get better ones. The intention is perpetual improvement. One of the key factors in capturing interesting story-telling wildlife images is that you have got to put yourself in front of the opportunities. It is very much about doing!!!

There are times when you are full of enthusiasm and you have the right kind  of kit and you are in an amazing place but the real action never gets going. Your enthusiasm and passion will drive you to keep trying.


Snipe are fascinating not only because of their unusual beaks but also because of their glorious colouring and unusual behaviour.

We only have one type of Painted Snipe is Southern Africa, the Greater Painted Snipe. These Snipe are polyandrous, like the African Jacana, where the female has many mates and the male rears the young. The chicks are precocial, meaning that they can feed themselves after hatching. A necessary evolutionary trait living along side a river or in wetland.

Painted Snipe on the banks of the Chobe River

Group of male Painted Snipe on the banks of the Chobe River

In the Painted Snipe world, the female are the more colourful. Apart from their beautiful colouring, the Painted Snipe has a relatively short bill which is curved down at the end.  It uses its bill to probe the mud for aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates where touch and smell as its primary senses. The only Painted Snipe I have seen have been along the shores of the Chobe River close to Kaserne.

Another interesting Snipe species is the African Snipe. It is quite different to the Painted Snipe. It’s bill is  longer, its colouring is more muted but exquisitely camouflaged and its makes an unusual  drumming sound during flying displays.

The African Snipe can usually be found around marshes and wetlands and is relatively common.

The African Snipe has a longer bill than the Painted Snipe and is not polyandrous. Its colouring provides excellent camouflage especially in reed beds.

The camouflage of this African Snipe was superb. I did not see it until it moved in the reeds at Marievale.

The camouflage of this African Snipe was superb. I did not see it until it moved in the reeds at Marievale.

The African Snipe is common and is usually found in marsh areas and wetlands. I frequently see African Snipe at Marievale. The wetland seems to be ideal for them.

A pair of  African Snipe basking in the sun at Marievale.

A pair of African Snipe basking in the sun at Marievale.

In the image above the bird on the left hand side might be a juvenile as I don’t think there is much difference in coloration between the male and female.

I have not yet captured an African Snipe in flight. The buzzing sound the males make in territorial or courtship display flights comes from  the air resonating in its fanned tail feathers.


The second bird category I have added is the Black-winged Stilt. It is also a wetland nomad. It is the only Stilt we have in Southern Africa.

In proportion to its body, the Black-winged Stilt has the longest legs in the bird world. This is one of the most slightly built of the Southern African waders.  Their long legs are very useful for feeding along the shoreline of a river or lake, but they do make mating tricky.

Chobe 1-6_May131811

This pair of Black-winged Stilts were mating in shallow water in the Chobe River. After mating the male seemed to be affectionate with his mate, which is not something you see after birds have been mating. The only other species I have seen showing affection after mating has been the Laughing Dove.

Chobe 1-6_May131818

The next image is of a juvenile Black-winged Stilt foraging in shallow water in the Chobe River. This youngster was beautiful and the colour of the reflections on the water added to the softness of the scene.


The next image is of an Adult Black-winged Stilt wading along the edge of the dam at Borokalalo National Park.  The wind was blowing creating small waves and the water was coloured bright green with algae.

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These Stilts are very good fliers and can be seen at times displaying in small groups over the water.

Chobe 1-6_May132040

It is a delicate job disentangling after mating.

Chobe 1-6_May131813

The closest relative to the Black-winged Stilt is the Pied Avocet.

The long legs and relatively short beak shows that the Black-winged Stilt and the Snipe, although often found in the same water, feed in different places along the water’s edge and so don’t compete.

I hope you found this post on Snipe and Black-winged Stilts interesting.

I will introduce two new categories next week.

“Time destroys the speculation of men, but it confirms the judgement of nature.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Have fun

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