RuffPhilomachus pugnax

adult male, breeding (dark)
David Tipling/VIREO
adult female, breeding
R. J. Chandler/VIREO
adult male, nonbreeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult male, breeding (intermediate)
John Cancalosi/VIREO
adult male, breeding (light)
David Tipling/VIREO
juvenile
Hanne & Jens Eriksen/VIREO
Ruff

Family

Description

11" (28 cm). A stocky shorebird with a short tapered bill. Breeding males have extraordinarily variable plumage, showing ear tufts, ruffs, and gorgets in any combination of black, white, chestnut, gray, buff, etc. Females (called "Reeves") and winter males are much duller-gray or brown above with pale spot at base of bill, white below; leg color varies from yellow to green, brown, and red. In flight, 2 oval white patches are visible at sides of rump. In all seasons male noticeably larger than female.

Voice

Usually silent, but occasionally a soft tu-whit when flushed.

Listen

foraging calls

Habitat

Short grassy meadows and marshy ponds.

Range

Breeds in northern Eurasia. A rare migrant along Pacific and Atlantic coasts and on Great Lakes.

Discussion

The Ruff is one of the most remarkable of all shorebirds. It is one of the few waders in which the two sexes are dramatically different in color, pattern, and size during the breeding season. The males also form leks or display grounds and engage in courting. After mating, the females build their nests away from the courtship area.

Nesting

4 gray, green, or buff eggs, heavily marked with deep brown blotches, in a grass-lined depression in a meadow or marsh.

Similar Species

adult

Upland Sandpiper

11-12 1/2" (28-32 cm). A sandpiper of open meadows with long yellowish legs, slender neck and small head, and short bill. Upperparts brown and scaly, underparts streaked and barred.

adult, breeding

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

8 1/2" (22 cm). Similar to Pectoral Sandpiper in size and behavior. Brownish overall but more rusty than Pectoral, cap redder, eyebrow broader.

adult, breeding

Pectoral Sandpiper

9" (23 cm). A chunky, somewhat short-legged wader with heavily streaked breast sharply delineated from unmarked white belly. Legs yellow. In flight, wings dark with no prominent stripe.

adult, breeding

Greater Yellowlegs

14" (36 cm). A slender, gray-streaked wader with conspicuous white rump and long yellow legs.

adult male

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

8" (20 cm). A starling-sized sandpiper with a small head. Underparts and face buff, legs dull orange-yellow. Bill short and straight.

Vireo

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