Notes on the Ang Ka Wood Snipe

There were so many incredible bird sightings in Thailand over the past winter. It’s impossible to choose which one was the best, but the sighting of a Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola) at Doi Inthanon has got to be a personal favourite. There are few reasons why I was particularly excited about this sighting. First, I love snipes and it’s obvious. Check out my other posts about snipes here. Second, the Wood Snipe is an extremely rare bird in Thailand and very little known elsewhere even in the breeding grounds. I have seen it once in Arunachal Pradesh, India in 2007 but I had never seen one in Thailand before, so it would be a country lifer for me. Lastly, there were so few photos of this species on any image databases. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of documenting and expanding our knowledge about such a mysterious bird.

A classic look of the Wood Snipe; judging from plumage and moult, it seemed to be an adult.
Compared to other snipes that I’m familiar with, it was much bulkier, almost like a cross between a woodcock and a snipe.
Bill length was moderately short compared to other snipes in Thailand. The tail extended beyond the folded tertials where all the primaries were hidden underneath.
It also had pin-like tail feathers! In one of the shots where the bird was doing a threatening display towards the Blue Whistling-Thrush that was nearby, some of the outer tail feathers were visible and they were extremely narrow like those of the Pin-tailed Snipe.

The Wood Snipe at Doi Inthanon was first spotted by a group of visiting birders led by Wings Tour on 9 February 2023. It was found in the dark forest bog in Ang Ka Nature Trail at the summit. It wasn’t seen again for at least 2 weeks only to reappear at the same spot and showed up well daily until at least 28 February 2023. This is only the fourth confirmed record of this species in Thailand. Interestingly, the first record was also from Doi Inthanon, but at a much lower elevation on 13 April 1931, when a bird was shot and collected near Ban Pha Mon by Deignan. The second record was from Doi Pha Hom Pok on 24 October 1965 when a bird was netted at 2,220 m above sea level by Ben King. The third record was from Mae Wong National Park when a bird was seen and photographed on several occasions around Khun Nam Yen campground between December 2014 to January 2015. There were also few other sight records from both Doi Inthanon and Doi Pha Hom Pok but there was no photographic evidence.

Since the most recent bird at Doi Inthanon hasn’t been seen for almost a month now, I guess that it’s already on its way back to the breeding ground either in eastern Himalayas or China. I really have no idea when the next one will appear in Thailand. We might have to wait another 8 years or more!

It was an exceptionally tame bird, but the dense vegetation around the bog meant that there were not many windows where I could get a full view of the bird.
Like other snipes, it fed by repeatedly sticking its bill into the soft mud.
Here’s the reason why it loved this particular spot so much. This corner of the bog appeared to have plenty of small and medium-sized earthworms. Even though it was at one of the busiest corners of the trail with constant flow of tourists passing by, the bird didn’t mind those activities at all and just fully concentrated on feeding. I also took a few videos of the bird while feeding, which can be watched here.

3 thoughts on “Notes on the Ang Ka Wood Snipe

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  1. Congratulations! Wood Snipe is indeed a rare and vulnerable species. Great to see its photos for the first time. In Japan, only Common Snipe, Greater Painted Snipe and Eurasian Woodcock can be seen in winter.

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