Waders >

The Ruff (Calidris pugnax) is a unique shorebird with a short bill that has a very slight down curve. A medium-sized wader and member of the order Calidridinae, this bird is found breeding in tundra habitats, bogs, marshes and wet meadows across northern Eurasia. Migrants are found in many wetland habitat including reservoirs to coastal mudflats. They winter mainly in Africa, but are also found across India and Southeast Asia, with the occasional vagrant sighted in Australia, including Tasmania and even in Alice Springs, inland Central Australia. They have been sighted in Australia between September to April.

The male of the species are larger then the female, with a length of between 26–32 cm, whilst the female are between 20–25 cm long. The Ruff have a small head with a low sloping forehead that is enhance by the drawn out facial appearance. They have a long neck and a bulky body. They have short to medium length legs whose colour can vary from a dull to dark green in juveniles, pink to orange in the adults, and some males during the breeding season have reddish-orange legs. The bill can be dark to mostly orange.

The plumage is highly variable, especially the breeding males, who will have fancy neck ruffs that can be black, white, buffy, chestnut, reddish-brown, or any combination thereof. The females and non-breeding birds are usually greyish-brown overall, sometimes with blotchy markings on the neck and belly. The juveniles are bright buffy with scaly patterning on the upperparts.

Described as a “Palearctic lekking” sandpiper, (Palearctic being the largest of the eight biogeographic realms on earth, that stretches across all of Eurasia, from north of the foothills of the Himalayas down to North Africa; lekking being a behaviour where the males perform courtship displays in visual and auditory range of each other to entice the female), the species also exhibit sexual dimorphism (the male plumage being different to the female).

Common name
The original English name ree, dates back to around1465. The name ruff is first recorded in 1634, derived from the the exaggerated collar that was fashionable from that period. The species is named Ruff, although the female of the species is sometimes known as Reeve.


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Calidris
  • Species: C. pugnax
  • Binomial name: Calidris pugnax

Footnote & References

  1. Ruff (bird), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruff_(bird) (last visited Oct. 22, 2021)
  2. Ruff (Calidris pugnax), eBird, https://ebird.org/species/ruff
  3. Ruff (Calidris pugnax), iNaturalistAU, https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/339593-Calidris-pugnax
  4. Philomachus pugnax — Ruff (Reeve), Species Profile and Threats Database, Australian Government, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=850