#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: Australian painted snipe

The Australian painted snipe (Rostratula australis) is a stocky wading bird around 220-250 mm in length with a long pinkish bill. The adult female, more colourful than the male, has a chestnut-coloured head, with white around the eye and a white crown stripe, and metallic green back and wings, barred with black and chestnut.

There is a pale stripe extending from the shoulder into a V down its upper back and the adult male is similar to the female, but smaller and duller with buff spots on the wings.

aus painted snipe
Picture: Birdlife Australia

The Australian painted snipe is usually found in shallow inland wetlands, either freshwater or brackish, that are either permanently or temporarily filled.

It is a cryptic bird that is hard to see and often overlooked. Usually only single birds are seen, though larger groups of up to 30 have been recorded.

It nests on the ground amongst tall reed-like vegetation near water, and feeds near the water’s edge and on mudflats, taking invertebrates, such as insects and worms, and seeds. The species has a scattered distribution throughout many parts of Australia, with a single record from Tasmania.

The main identified threat to the Australian painted snipe is the loss and degradation of wetlands, through drainage and the diversion of water for agriculture and reservoirs. Predation by feral animals (e.g. nest predation by foxes (Vulpes vulpes) or cats (Felis catus)) may be a threat to the Australian painted snipe, however there is no evidence for this.

Picture: Birdlife Australia
Picture: Birdlife Australia

Though some individuals are apparently resident in some areas, other individuals appear to be nomadic, temporarily occupying areas where suitable habitat exists.

It has also been referred to as the painted snipe or Greater painted snipe, Rostratula benghalensis or Rostralula benghalensis australis, as it was previously considered to be part of the Greater painted snipe species that occurs also in Africa and Asia. Recent research indicates that the Australian painted snipe is a separate species.

Although the Australian painted snipe can occur across Australia, the areas of most sensitivity to the species are those wetlands where the birds frequently occur and are known to breed.

The Australian painted snipe is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and is also listed as a marine species (as Rostratula benghalensis) and a migratory species (under the China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement as Rostratula benghalensis) under the EPBC Act.

Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment.

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