The Greater Painted-Snipe is not a bird that we get to see very often, much less photograph, so we were thrilled to have several wonderful sightings of this elusive bird along the S90 and S89 roads between Satara and Olifants when we visited the Kruger National Park in December 2021.
Among Greater Painted-Snipes it is the female which is the dominant sex. She is bigger, boasts the bolder plumage and leaves the incubation of the eggs and rearing of the chicks entirely to the male. Shy birds that inhabit flooded grasslands, marshes and other muddy wetlands where they skulk among the reeds and other emergent vegetation, the Greater Painted-Snipe searches for the insects and other invertebrates that forms the bulk of its diet by probing in the mud with its elongated bill. They are usually seen singly or in pairs, with family groups encountered during and shortly after the breeding season.
Female Greater Painted-Snipes mate with 2-4 males in a breeding season, which spans the period September to March in our part of the world, leaving the males to incubate the clutch of 2-5 eggs over a period of almost 3 weeks. The chicks leave the nest before they’re a day old, moving around with their father who feeds them for the first ten days of their life. The chicks can fly when they’re a month old but remain with their father for another month or two before becoming fully independent. Fully grown Greater Painted-Snipes measure around 25cm in length and weigh approximately 120g.
Greater Painted-Snipes are very sparsely distributed over South Africa, with the Kruger National Park seemingly the most reliable place to find this species in our country and especially so during periods of above-average rainfall. Beyond our borders they’re found over most of Sub-Saharan Africa, in Madagascar, the Nile Delta, and in Asia from the Indian subcontinent to Japan and while the IUCN considers it to be of least concern overall, in South Africa it is listed as Near-Threatened due to the loss of suitable habitat.