RUFF – (Calidris pugnax) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Ruff is a wading bird. The male in breeding plumage wears a large ‘ruff’, a collar with plumage that varies from white to black with head tufts of different colors. The back is brown with white at the tip of the feathers, the throat is black and the under parts white. The bill and the legs are orange. The female (also called ‘reeve) has a rusty head and a similar coloring as the male on the back; the bill is dark and the legs are light brown. The neck and breast are light grey with mottled brown, and the under parts are whitish. The male is larger than the female, at a length of around 30 cm (12 inches).
NAME: The English name of this bird stems from the large collar in the breeding male. That word comes from a large pleated and starched white (generally) collar worn by people in Europe in the 1500s. The Latin genus name ‘Calidris’ is from ancient Greek and refers to a grey speckled shorebird. The Latin species name ‘pugnax’ means ‘found of fighting’.
HABITAT: Marshes and other wetlands.
DIET: Ruffs will eat insects – both on the ground and under water – in the summer, and will add grain – notably rice in paddies – and seeds in the winter.
BREEDING/NESTING: Males gather in leks to display their colorful plumage. The nest is a scrape on the ground in well-concealed vegetation. An average of four greenish eggs are laid, which are incubated by females.
DISTRIBUTION: The ruff breeds in northern Europe and Russia, and winters in Africa for the most part. The bird is a long distance traveler. When migrating, these birds can form very large flocks, also on their wintering grounds. It will occasionally visit Hawaii for the winter.
CONSERVATION: The ruff is listed as ‘least concern’ due to its large population and widespread range, both in summer and winter.
NOTES: The ruff belongs in the sandpiper family.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Greater Yellowlegs, Upland Sandpiper