Overwintering – Latham’s Snipe

Latham’s Snipe
Latham’s Snipe – collagraph

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” ~ Albert Einstein

After another very productive day at Portland Bay Press, in the Julia Street Creative Space, I finished my entry to the “Overwintering” project.  Congratulations to Kate Gorringe-Smith for initiating this wonderful project to raise awareness of our migratory birds.

Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) is a shy and cryptic bird that breeds in Japan and migrates to Victoria in the Spring and Summer. It was the existence of this bird at the Powling Street Wetland Reserve, in Port Fairy, that resulted in a VCAT ruling that a housing development be significantly scaled back to reduce habitat destruction. A committed group of local residents collected data that provided strong evidence that the site was crucial to the survival of this species. 

This winter habitat is critical to the bird’s survival, as it is here that it builds up it’s fat reserves by foraging for plants and a variety of mud-dwelling invertebrates. The creamy-yellow, energy-rich fat is what fuels it’s flight across the equator to the northern hemisphere. This fat is also what made the species a valuable food source and caused it to be hunted extensively until bans were introduced in 1970-1980. The species is listed as Near Threatened in Victoria and nominated for the Flora and Fauna Guarantee. (SWIFFT)

As a Biology teacher, what fascinates me about this bird, is it’s remarkable structural, functional and behavioral adaptations that enable it’s survival. Millions of years of evolution have resulted in individual birds that instinctively navigate their way across the globe. Seasonal cues cause constriction of the gizzard and liver and enlargement of the heart to power it’s epic journey. Extraordinary feathered camouflage make it disappear into the rushes and reeds of it’s wetland habitat. (Birdlife)


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