Painted snipes are usually either solitary and living alone, or are found in pairs. In some instances, however, groups of as many as one hundred individuals have been observed, probably because dry weather reduces the amount of appropriate habitat.
The South American painted snipe is monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), meaning that a single male mates with a single female during the breeding season. Males call to court females. South American painted snipes nest in small colonies, with five or six nests per 2.5 to 3.7 acres (1.0 to 1.5 hectares). The female lays two, or, on rare occasions, three eggs at a time. It is not known how long the eggs take to hatch or whether both parents are involved in taking care of the chicks. It is also not known how soon after hatching chicks leave the nest.
In the greater painted snipe, the more brightly colored females court the males. Courtship involves calling at dusk with what is described as a series of hiccup-like hoots made either from the ground or while in flight. Greater painted snipes are usually polyandrous (pah-lee-AN-drus), with a single female mating with multiple males, often as many as four. Sometimes, however, they are monogamous, with a female mating with only one male. Males are responsible for building the nests, incubating, or sitting on the eggs, and feeding and protecting the young once they hatch.
A THIRD PAINTED SNIPE?
Some ornithologists believe that the greater painted snipe of Australia is a distinct species, a third painted snipe. It has longer wings, a shorter bill, and shorter legs than greater painted snipes found elsewhere in the world. Coloration in Australian populations is also different, since the males' gray tail is paler and females have a chocolate-brown rather than reddish brown head, as well as round tail spots. Finally, the calls of Australian painted snipes sound different from the low booming call of other greater painted snipes.
The female generally lays between two and five eggs at a time. Greater painted snipe chicks are precocial (pree-KOH-shul), hatching at an advanced stage of development, covered with feathers and being able to move. Male greater painted snipe males breed at one year of age, and females breed at age two.
Both painted snipe species build nests that are shallow bowls of reeds and grass. Painted snipes usually choose nest sites that are hidden in dense vegetation, although sometimes they will use more open areas.
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