Rostratulidae – Painted-snipes

This family has a very peculiar style of sexual selection where females are more attractive and vibrant than males

It is a small group of wading birds that, despite their name, are not closely related to the true snipes of the Scolopacidae family. The family consists of two extant genera, Rostratula and Nycticryphes, with three living species and one extinct.

Painted snipes are noted for their sexual dimorphism, a biological condition where males and females of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs. In the case of painted snipes, females are typically larger and more brightly colored than males, a reversal of the more common pattern seen in birds where males are the more ornate sex. This difference is believed to be due to the female’s role in mate selection and the male’s role in incubation and chick rearing, which leads to females being more competitive and conspicuous in seeking out partners.

The plumage of painted snipes is indeed more spectacular compared to actual snipes, with vivid patterns that include spots, stripes, and patches in colors such as chestnut, white, and black. These birds have short legs relative to their bodies and long bills that are well adapted to probing in mud and shallow water for food, which typically includes invertebrates and seeds.

Painted snipes have large, forward-facing eyes, which is an adaptation for their crepuscular or nocturnal lifestyle. The positioning and size of their eyes give them better binocular vision and depth perception in low light conditions, which is useful for detecting predators and foraging at dusk or dawn.

The resemblance between painted snipes and true snipes is an example of convergent evolution, where unrelated species develop similar traits independently, often due to living in similar environments and facing similar ecological challenges. Both groups have evolved long, thin bills for probing, cryptic mottled plumage for camouflage, and body proportions that are advantageous for their lifestyle in wetland habitats.

Within the Rostratulidae family, each species occupies a slightly different niche or geographic range, but all share a preference for marshy, wet environments, where they can find ample food and shelter.