Fastest Bird on Earth
Humans will always be envious of the bird’s capability of flying. Think about going to places without having to pay for anything and at the same time, giving you the freedom to go anywhere you want. But with thousands of bird species living today, you would rather be a Great Snipe, the world’s fastest bird.
It used to be the Peregrine Falcon, the fastest bird on earth. Until recently, scientists found out that peregrine falcons have a speed only up to 322 kilometers an hour when travelling in short distances to catch its prey. On the other hand, great snipes are capable of completing a transcontinental flight across Europe to Sub-Saharan Africa at 97 kilometers an hour even without resting for two days.
When you see this bird, you won’t realize that it is the fastest bird to date. These amazing birds are brown, patterned plumage wading bird with long, pointed, two-toned bill that has a slight droop towards the tip. Female snipes are larger than males although male snipes have longer tails with more white on it compared to their counterparts.
They can grow between 27 to 29 centimeters with a wing span of up to 50 centimeters. They can also weigh between 140 to 260 grams.
Habitat and Feeding
Using its long, pointed bill to probe the soil or water for food, great snipes’ diet consists of earthworms, gastropods, adult and larval terrestrial insects and marsh plant seeds. Hence, they can be found invertebrate-rich habitats, usually in wide river valleys, meadows, peat land, tundra with scattered bushes, especially in breeding season. Otherwise, these birds live in marshland, grass, lake edges or flooded fields.
During breeding season, usually in European lowland grounds, male snipes gather in a display ground after sunset and compete for the female snipes’ attention. This is done by displaying the white feathers on the tail, which is the main consideration of most female snipes, since they prefer male ones with most white on its tail.
After mating, female great snipes will be in charge of building the nest, incubating the eggs which usually take 22 to 24 days, and taking care of its young.
As soon as breeding season is over, theyleave the breeding grounds and migrate to Sub-Saharan Africa where they will stay until March or April.
Threats and Conservation Measures
At present, great snipes are classified as Near Threatened species. Due to the loss and deterioration of floodplain meadow and marshland habitat, changes in agricultural practices and urban development, the number of them dramatically decreased and eventually disappeared in various parts of Europe and Southern Africa. Aside from these mentioned factors, hunting, tourism, fishing and climate changes also contribute to the decline in number.
Because of this trend, various countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are legally protecting these species. An agreement under the Convention of Migratory Species urges other member countries to pursue conservatory actions for 235 migratory birds, including great snipes that are dependent on wetlands. Through this effort, the fastest bird on earth can still be preserved.