Philomachus pugnax


The male Ruff in alternate plumage is one of the most unique shorebirds and differs dramatically from the female in alternate plumage. During mating the males form display grounds and engage in courting. The female, often called a Reeve, will later build a nest away from the courtship area.


General: 11 inches in length.

Adult Male Alternate: Variable plumage. Has brightly colored (black, white, chestnut, gray, buff, orange, etc) ruffs about the head an throat. Often has a black belly. Dark rump with white side patches. Dark bill with orangish base or entirely orangish bill. Reddish-orange legs.

Adult Female Alternate: Brown head. Black back and wing coverts with pale feather edges. Brown breast with dark barring. White belly and undertail coverts. Dark bill, often with orange base. Dark rump with white side patches. Reddish-orange legs.

Adult Basic: Dull gray upperparts with paler feather edges. White belly. Yellowish-green legs. Dark rump with white side patches.

Juvenile: Buffy head and breast. Dark back and wing coverts with buffy feather edges. Dark bill with variable pale base. Yellowish-green legs.


Short grassy meadows and marshy ponds.


4 gray-green or buff colored eggs heavily marked with dark brown blotches. The eggs have a 20-23 day incubation period. Fledging occurs at ? days. The nest is a shallow ground depression lined with grass.

Observed Locations:

  • San Elijo Lagoon, Cardiff-by-the-Sea

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.