SKILLED SLURPER: A hungry Wilson’s snipe was rescued recently from a chicken coop in Wildwood. It couldn’t find its way out and was starving.
After a few days at Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society (PROWLS) being fed mountains of mealworms, which, fortunately, were not held up by the Fraser Valley floods, it was keen to leave and was released back in Wildwood, far from the dangerous chicken coop but close to wetlands where they feed on water bugs.
They can slurp small prey from the mud without having to lift their bill. Having a flexible tip on the bill allows it to open and grasp food while keeping the base of the bill closed.
A couple of weeks earlier, another snipe, caught by a cat and severely mangled, had been rescued and brought to PROWLS. After a course on antibiotics, and with its wounds healed, it was put outside in a flight cage to check its ability to fly.
Unfortunately there was a downpour and it became wet to the skin, indicating it had lost its weatherproofing. It was now severely hypothermic.
Brought back inside and towel-dried, various efforts were made to encourage it to preen and stimulate the necessary oils. This very high-stress bird, however, refused to cooperate and ended up being sent to MARS Wildlife Rescue in Courtenay for treatment with a special preen oil, and will be returned for immediate release as soon as it is waterproof.
Snipes are often not noticed in the bush because they have a secretive nature and perfect camouflage: a cryptic brown and buff colouration.