Ruff (species: Philomachus pugnax) in taxonomy (Gaia Guide)
Philomachus pugnax

©Rhion Pritchard: Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) in winter plumage

©BS Thurner Hof: Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) in breeding plumage

©Massimiliano Sticca: Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Scolopacidae
Genus Philomachus
Species Philomachus pugnax
Status least concern



Distinguishing features

The Ruff is a long-necked, pot-bellied bird. This species shows marked sexual dimorphism; the male is much larger than the female (the reeve), and has a breeding plumage that includes brightly coloured head tufts, bare orange facial skin, extensive black on the breast, and the large collar of ornamental feathers that inspired this bird's English name. The female and the non-breeding male have grey-brown upperparts and mainly white underparts. Three differently plumaged types of male, including a rare form that mimics the female, use a variety of strategies to obtain mating opportunities at a lek, and the colourful head and neck feathers are erected as part of the elaborate main courting display. (Wikipedia)


  • Up to 32 cm (Length of specimen) - applies to Males
  • Up to 26 cm (Length of specimen) - applies to Females


  • Up to 60 cm - applies to Males
  • Up to 49 cm - applies to Females



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

It breeds in marshes and wet meadows across northern Eurasia. This highly gregarious sandpiper is migratory and sometimes forms huge flocks in its winter grounds, which include southern and western Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Australia. (Wikipedia)


It forages in wet grassland and soft mud, probing or searching by sight for edible items. It primarily feeds on insects, especially in the breeding season, but it will consume plant material, including rice and maize, on migration and in winter. (Wikipedia)

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