Subantarctic Snipe [New Zealand] Snipe (Coenocorypha aucklandica)

Range: Subantarctic island south of New Zealand. Surviving wild populations are restricted to the uninhabited Snares, Auckland and Antipodes Islands. The entire population is estimated at a healthy 20,000 individuals; although the threat of accidental introduction of mammalian predators remains a concern. The taxonomy of the Subantarctic Snipe is uncertain, but it seems reasonable to consider the 3 or 4 isolated populations as endemic subspecies: Auckland Island Snipe (C. a. aucklandica), Snares Island Snipe (C. a. heugeli), Campbell Island Snipe (C. a. nov. sp. ), Antipodes Island Snipe (C. a. meinertzhagenae). Sadly, two additional forms, Stewart Island Snipe (C. a. iredalei) and North Island Snipe (C. a. barrierensis) are considered extinct.

The recently discovered Campbell Island Snipe is restricted to a tiny and almost inaccessible rock (Jacquemart Islet) off Campbell Island. The total wild population may be as low as 10 individuals! Rat have just been erradicated on Campell through a massive effort by the New Zealand government and hopefully this will allow recolonization of the island.

Fig. 1 A pair of Subantarctic Snipe (C. a. aucklandica) moving together through short grass on Enderby, Auckland Islands, New Zealand. The birds pushed through the lawn with some difficulty, resembling rodents more than shorebirds.

Fig. 2. Characteristic flat-headed profile of these diminutive yet fascinating 'microsnipe'.

Fig. 3. Gulliver's Travels! A different way to view shorebirds. A giant Dick Filby peers down at a pair of Subantarctic Snipe on Enderby, Auckland Islands, New Zealand. [Note: Dick was later overpowered and tied up with string.]

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All text and images copyright of Angus Wilson© 2002