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young birds are able to fly when about four weeks old. The Rev. J. G. Wood tells us that the mother bird carries her young out of danger, but I have never been able to find satisfactory evidence of such an occurrence. Probably the statement arose from confusion between the snipe and the woodcock.
It is often said and believed—frequently no doubt on the authority of the widely read and ever delightful Natural History of Selborne'-that snipe are fatter after a few days' frost than at any other time. Gilbert White has a quaint theory whereby to account for this supposed fact, attributing it to the restraining of the bird's perspiration by the decrease in temperature. But as it happens, instead of being fatter after a few days' frost, snipe are most appreciably thinner; so long as their feeding grounds remain
open the birds keep themselves as fat as they can possibly be, but, from the day that a check is placed upon their food supply, their fat diminishes rapidly. Probably some credulous friend or acquaintance believed, just as very many believe to-day, that snipe really become fatter after a few days' frost, and then White set himself to work to think out an explanation of this fallacy assumed to be as a fact, evolving the aforesaid theory.
Snipe are at different times very tame and very
wild. As this more immediately concerns the sportsman, it will be discussed in the part of the book devoted to snipe shooting.
The snipe is both solitary and gregarious. At times we may meet with nothing but single birds or at most small parties of two or three or three or four ; at other times we may find all the birds in the district gathered into large wisps, when they usually bid defiance to all efforts on the part of the gunner, being quite unapproachable. Sometimes-looking as though it were due to instinct handed down from the days when hawks were many and gamekeepers non-existent - a wisp on rising will instantly scatter, the birds flying in various directions and returning after a while to their feeding ground in small parties. On other occasions one may find a small area thick with snipe, which, instead of acting in concert like a wisp and rising together, will spring up singly one after another; half a dozen birds may be feeding only a few yards apart, yet each one will be up and off before another rises.
The full snipe is subject to considerable variation both in size and plumage. There are small snipe and large snipe, light snipe and dark snipe. The average weight of a bird is about 4 02. ; its average length about 10 in. Specimens have been recorded weigh
ing as little as 3 oz. and as much as 8 oz. Pied, cream-coloured and pure white snipe have been shot, and also birds having a well-formed crest.
Snipe not only vary in size as to the individual, but also as to the batch. With regard to the latter, I wrote in the ‘Badminton Magazine' for November 1902 :
I think few snipe shooters can have failed to notice the occasional large difference in the average size of birds killed in the same district. At one time they may be all very big birds ; at another they may be all very small. There can be little doubt that these different sized batches of snipe are migrants from different parts of the world; one lot, for instance, may have come from Holland, another lot from Sweden.
: Perhaps the finest batch ever obtained was that of Colonel Peyton, who, on January 8, 1879, killed twenty couple of snipe, which weighed collectively no less than 12 lbs., giving an average weight per bird of nearly 5 oz.--a highly remarkable bag. I once knew eight birds to be killed one after another which averaged just 5 oz. in weight.
At the first touch of sharp frost, snipe leave their more open feeding grounds and seek the margin of any water not yet affected. When the springs and streams freeze and remain frozen for a day or two the majority of the birds leave the country. Some make
their way to the coast, where they remain and feed for a while in company with the small waders; others hang on and on to their inland haunts, picking up a terribly scanty living and becoming little better than skeletons. Snipe have been known to die in large numbers during a protracted frost. It seems odd that these birds, the migratory instinct so strong within them, should not make a start for a more genial climate with the others when hard weather comes in real earnest. Possibly they wait on hoping for a change, and then at last find themselves too weak to think of undertaking a lengthy flight. Snipe regain their flesh almost as rapidly as they lose it. Though mere skeletons at the break up of a frost, they are as fat as ever a week afterwards. They feed voraciously to make up for lost time, and find a limitless food supply, for aster a frost the worms work up almost to the surface of the ground.
In one habit the full snipe differs diametrically from any other bird whose ways it is possible to observe closely. While other birds invariably rest with their heads to the wind, the snipe invariably does the reverse. Why, it is impossible to say. The bird, its shanks flat upon the ground and its beak pointing downwards and pressed against the breast, poses itself in the form of the letter V, the raised fan-like tail partly shielding the back from the wind.
PECULIARITIES OF THE SNIPE
"SMALL wonder is it,' I wrote not long ago, “that a bird owning such a prominent feature as the snipe's beak should have taken its name from the feature in question. Most of the European languages, if not all of them, have endowed the snipe with an appellative based upon the eminent character of his bill, e.g. the French bécassine, from bec ; the Portuguese narseja from nariz ; the German schnepfe from schneppen--the last being the prime root of, or having perhaps a common prime root with, our own word snipe or snite.
"Our modernised form of the word, pure AngloSaxon, is snout. On account of the conspicuousness of its snite, or snout, the bird became known as the snite. Later the t was gradually superseded by the p, but the supersession did not become entire till comparatively recent times. It has been said that even