Drumming (snipe)

Drumming (also called bleating) is a sound produced by snipe as part of their courtship display flights. The sound is produced mechanically (rather than vocally) by the vibration of the modified outer tail feathers, held out at a wide angle to the body, in the slipstream of a power dive. The display is usually crepuscular, or given throughout moonlit nights. The behaviour is generally characteristic of the genera Coenocorypha, Gallinago and Lymnocryptes. Some sounds made by the closely related woodcocks (Scolopax spp.) in the course of their 'roding' display flights may be homologous to drumming.

The sound made by Gallinago snipes has been variously described as “drumming”, “bleating”, “throbbing”, a “rattle’’ and an “eerie fluting”. The drumming of the Jack Snipe (Limnocryptes minimus) has been likened to the sound made by a cantering or galloping horse. Miskelly records Coenocorypha snipes giving a non-vocal “roar” homologous to the drumming displays of Gallinago snipes. When breeding in northern Japan, Latham's Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) are known as “thunder birds” for the drumming noise made in the course of their display flights.


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