Latham’s Snipe: The Bird That Flies 4,000 miles Constantly For 5 Days

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It’s a shy and intrusive creature but can achieve what transcontinental flights can only dream of flying without a break for 5 days. The Latham’s Snipe is a well-camouflaged bird that breeds in Japan and the East Asian Coastline, before undertaking the incredible non-stop flight to Australia.  A female snipe that was tagged completed the 7,000 kilometers (4350 miles) journey from northern Japan to Queensland in 3 days.

It arrives totally malnourished, and it takes several months before it regains its body fat and strength for the long flight back home. Latham’s Snipe is a sun-seeker. Its stay in Japan coincides with the warm weather there.

It flies to Australia to benefit from the warm weather, spring rains, and feed-rich wetlands. Its entire stay in Australia is spent resting, feeding, and growing fresh feathers, and preparing for the journey back in autumn.

Loss Of Habitat Affecting Latham’s Snipe Population

But the loss of wetland and hunting has caused a sharp decline in their numbers in southeast Australia. The ratification of the 1981 Migratory Bird Agreement between Australia and Japan stopped the hunting of the endangered snipe in the two countries.

But the wetlands continue to shrink as a result of human settlement and the drainage of wetlands for agriculture. The birds often find their regular habitats have disappeared after their exhausting journey.

latham's snipe

The Latham’s Snipe is also a shy and sensitive creature and is wary of intrusion by cattle or humans into their habitat.

The bogs and wetlands of the Kosciuszko National Park provide sanctuary for the birds, but the intrusion of feral horses destroys their food source and disturbs the shy birds.

A research program triggered by an intrusion into a Latham’s Snipe habitat in 2014 has developed into the Latham’s Snipe Project that has spread around Australia.

Read: The White-bellied Heron: Habitat Degradation Leading To A Rapid Decline

Researchers found that the birds generally congregate in wetlands in urban areas. They also found that most of the wetlands are unprotected from human intrusion and land development.

Recognizing the value of the wetlands and keeping them out of human intrusion is the only way to save the Latham’s Snipe. An initiative by citizen scientists and researchers at Victoria’s Cape Paterson Ecovillage is working with developers to design and conserve wetlands within developing areas. More such initiatives can do a world of good for the incredible bird.

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