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
Hanne & Jens Eriksen/VIREO



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.


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


foraging calls


Short grassy meadows and marshy ponds.


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


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.


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

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