Difference Between Snipe and Woodcock

Snipe vs Woodcock

Belonging in the same family, Scolopacidae, both birds, snipes and woodcocks, look alike, but the differences are still there to account for a better understanding about them. Diversity, behaviours, distribution, and some interesting features would provide a better platform to discuss the differences between these two interesting birds with much more sense.


There are about 25 species of snipes, classified in three genera. Only Gallinago species have a worldwide distribution, but Coenocorypha species range only around New Zealand and closer islands, and the genus Lymnocryptus include Asian species only. They have a characteristic cryptic plumage, which makes it almost impossible to spot them in the wild. The long and slender bill is extremely useful for them to find their food in the mud. They in fact have one of the most sensitive bills among all the birds as it has a number of nerve filaments run almost to the tip of the bill. This supersensitive bill could sense the invertebrates in the mud as they move it in the sewing machine action. Apart from those incredible foraging adaptations, snipes’ plumage and odd flight behaviours make it very difficult for the human hunters with guns to shoot them. Only, an exceptionally skilled shooter could aim and get it successfully, and the term sniper in military practices has originated from these little birds. They are smaller than an average human palm and their weight averages around 110 grams.


Woodcocks are of eight species of the genus Scolopax, and six of those are endemic to their inhabited islands. Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Indonesia are those islands with endemic woodcock species, and the widespread species are the North American and Eurasian species. They have stocky bodies with cryptic brown and blackish plumage; those have a closer relationship with the Gallinago snipe species. However, their long and slender bill is very advantageous for their foraging preferences, as they feed on the invertebrates in the loose soil of the woodlands. The tip of the upper bill is flexible and which is the advantage that they have in foraging. Woodcocks could see the whole 3600 panoramic view, because of the specialized location of their eyes on the head. The pin feathers of woodcocks are extremely useful to make fine brush tips for the painters. Woodcocks have about one foot long bodies, which could weigh almost 300 grams.

What is the difference between Snipe and Woodcock?

• Diversity of snipes (eight species in one genus) is as more than three times as of woodcocks (25 species in three genera).

• Endemism to their native habitats is higher in woodcocks compared to snipes.

• Woodcocks have larger bodies compared to snipes.

• Woodcocks can manipulate their upper bill to find their food in the soil, while snipes can incredibly sense the invertebrates in mud from their supersensitive bill.

• Woodcocks have 3600 panoramic view, but snipes do not.

• Woodcocks inhabit mostly woodlands, whereas snipes inhabit muddy areas or wetlands more often.