Ruff

Scientific name: Philomachus pugnax

Did you know: The Ruff is a unique bird with a fascinating mating strategy involving three different types of males: the territorial, the satellite, and the rare female-mimicking ‘faeder’.

What Do Ruffs Look Like? (how to identify them)

Ruffs are medium-sized wading birds, known for their distinct appearance. They have small heads, slightly droopy bills, and medium-long legs which range in colour from orange to reddish. 

A key characteristic in flight is their not so noticeable wing-stripe and oval white marks beside the tail. These birds are primarily migratory, with some residing in the United Kingdom year-round. Their numbers are currently dwindling, making conservation efforts crucial.

Differences Between Male And Female Ruffs

The male and female Ruffs display remarkable differences. Males, significantly larger than females, boast a spectacular breeding plumage, including brightly coloured head tufts and a large collar of ornamental feathers. Females, known as ‘reeves’, have more subdued grey-brown upperparts and primarily white underparts. Males utilise various strategies, including mimicking females, to gain mating opportunities.

What Do Ruffs Eat?

Ruffs’ diet is quite diverse. They primarily feed on insects, larvae, frogs, small fish, and seeds. During different seasons and migrations, they adapt their diet to include plant material such as rice and maize.

Where Do Ruffs Live? (inc. migration info)

Ruffs are found in farmlands, wetlands, and grasslands. They breed in marshes and wet meadows across northern Eurasia and migrate to regions including Europe, Africa, and Asia. The UK hosts both breeding and wintering populations, with some birds present all year.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Ruffs)

Ruffs are not typically vocal, especially the males during their elaborate courtship displays. However, they do produce soft sounds occasionally, particularly during mating rituals.

Fun Ruff Facts (kid friendly)

  • Ruffs can be found in many parts of the world, from Europe to Australia!
  • Males have an extraordinary wardrobe change for breeding season, sporting colourful feathers.
  • Female Ruffs, called ‘reeves’, are much smaller and less showy than males.
  • These birds have a special way of eating, swimming in water like ducks to find food.
  • Ruffs are social birds, sometimes forming flocks of thousands during migration.

Ruff Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Ruff

Diet: Insects, larvae, frogs, small fish, seeds.
Bird Family: Sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes
Length: 20-32 cm
Wingspan: 46-58cm
Weight: 70-150 g
Scientific Name: Philomachus pugnax

The Ruff Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December