Fun Ruff Facts For Kids

Arpitha Rajendra
Oct 20, 2022 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
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Read more interesting Ruff facts here on Kidadl

The ruff (Calidris pugnax or Philomachus pugnax) is a medium-sized wader bird of the family Scolopacidae (shorebirds). As per a recent study, these birds are related to the sharp-tailed sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) and broad-billed sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus).

The ruff birds were originally named 'ree' in English, which dates back to 1465, a possible derivation from a word that means 'frenzied.'

Carl Linneaus first described these birds in his Systema Naturae as Tringa pugnax in 1758. Calidris is a derivation of an Ancient Greek word skalidris or kalidris, which was used by Aristotle to describe a few gray-colored waterside birds.

The specific name, pugnax, refers to the aggressive behavior of these birds in the mating grounds. 'Pugnax' is a Latin word that means 'combative.'

Their body color is grayish-brown overall with white, buffy, reddish-brown, and black neck ruffs on males. The first record of the name 'ruff' dates back to 1634, which is a decorated collar from the 16th or 17th century, referring to the ornamental neck feathers of the male birds.

If you liked the ruff bird, check out these Indian peafowl facts and macaw facts for more.

Ruff Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a ruff?

The ruff (Calidris pugnax or Philomachus pugnax) is wader bird of the order Charadriiformes and phylum Chordata. They are migratory birds and not endemic to a location. They prefer migrating to winter ground in the fall and breeding grounds in the spring.

They forage for food in flocks and are active both at night and day. Male birds gather into competitive flocks (lek) in the breeding grounds until the end of the season. Ruffs are pot-bellied and long-necked.

The species have notable behavior and odd courtship plumage. Large flocks are formed at the stopover site for feeding.

They are known to store fat as fuel, but lipids are their main energy source for migrating and exercise, unlike mammals. They keep themselves warm by shivering. There is extensive research done regarding how they oxidize lipids.

What class of animal does a ruff belong to?

The Ruff (C. pugnax) belongs to the class Aves of animals.

How many ruffs are there in the world?

With their huge range of natural habitat, their population is around 2,000,000 ruffs. The ruff bird population around 200,000-510,000 have declined by 30% in their Eurasian breeding range. There are around 1 million ruff pairs in Russia, 61,000 pairs in Sweden, 39,000 pairs in Finland, and 14,000 pairs in Norway.

Where does a ruff live?

They occupy the North Eurasian habitat range in the breeding season and Africa in the northern winter (late summer). The habitat in Asia and Europe extends from Great Britain and Scandanavia through the Pacific, where this species breeds.

Ruffs are spread across Norway, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Denmark, and Germany. Some ruffs have wandered to Senegal, New Zealand, Madagascar, Northern South America, Iceland, and Middle America.

What is a ruff's habitat?

Much of their natural habitat includes coastal marshes, flooded grasslands or meadows, scrubland, wetland, estuaries, delta, pastures, farms, and rice paddies with shallow waters. As ruffs breed in a cooler wetland in North Eurasia, they can be found in cool temperate European areas.

The lek is formed in slopes and mounds, nest in low scrub or sedge, and wetland provides food. They are Arctic species over Russia.

Who does ruff live with?

Ruffs live in flocks and pairs.

How long does a ruff live?

The average life span is around 4.4 years. The record lifespan of a Finnish bird is 13 years and one month.

How do they reproduce?

The male displays at the lek in the breeding season, usually in an open green field. The lek male groups' display act during the breeding is usually directed towards other male species rather than females.

These males make up for only a few of the birds who have varying plumage and breeding behavior and are well-marked. The three male forms are satellite males with white ruff necks, the usually territorial males, and the rare female-like plumage. 84% of all males have chestnut or black-colored ruffs that mark small territories in the lek.

Males then start courting females and also show aggression towards other male birds. One lek area has around 5-20 males, usually consists of bare soil in the center.

The male display involves jumping, wing fluttering, lunging at rivals, standing upright, or crouching ruff effect. Other displays include courtship dances like raising their head tufts, leaping into the air, and more. The dominant males (90%) are more likely to return to the same lekking arena.

The satellite birds that have mottled or white ruffs have no territories, but they try to mate with females visiting other territories. The resident males tolerate these satellite birds as this attracts more females.

Females choose large leks situated near tall plants for nesting. The male breeds outside the lek, too as only a few active males form a lek.

The male can follow the female or wait for them to approach feeding sites. The polyandry level is highest in ruffs compared to other lekking species. The male does not take part in raising the chicks.

This bird builds a shallow ground scrape nest with stems and leaves. The female nests on their own.

Females produce up to four eggs. They are from mid-March through June. The eggs are olive or green in color.

The chicks are covered in chestnut and buff down. They feed themselves.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the ruff is Least Concern. These ducks have been facing habitat loss, hunting, and egg collecting since the 19th-century. Although this species is common in north Sweden, this bird population has been decreasing since the '80s.

Ruff Fun Facts

What does ruff look like?

Their appearance is similar to a gravy boat. They have a long neck, pot belly, medium-sized bill, and a small head.

The long legs can vary in color but are normally orange or yellow. They display a thin white bar on the wings in flight and also white ovals on the sides of their tails.

A small percentage of the male species are similar to the females. The male has a distinct collar-like neck ruff, head tufts, and their bill, legs, and bare facial skin is orange.

The color of the feather is chestnut or black, and they have gray-brown back with white underparts and black breast. The plumage can vary, especially in the males during breeding.

The decoration of the head and neck and facial skin of males is gone outside the breeding season, and their bills and legs get dull. The plumage of the female is identical to the male in winter.

The molting of the ruffs lags in the second year, probably due to energy demands during their migration flight. Before returning to the south, most females and males start pre-winter molt.

The Ruff standing in shallow water

How cute are they?

Due to their varying plumage colors and size, these birds are considered cute.

How do they communicate?

They are mostly silent with a call that is a soft gue-gue-gue, especially during breeding.

How big is a ruff?

The length of the ruff is 11-13 in (29-32 cm) and around 21-24 in (54-60 cm) wingspan. A typical male is larger than a female. This species is usually confused with two waders.

Juvenile female ruffs are slightly larger than the juvenile sharp-tailed sandpiper with identical orange-buff breasts. The head is more round, plainer neck, and a longer neck. The buff-breasted sandpiper is also identical to the young ruff bird.

How fast can a ruff fly?

The exact flight speed of a ruff is not known.

How much does a ruff weigh?

The weight of a ruff is 0.39 lb (180 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Females are called a reeve, and males are called ruff.

What would you call a baby ruff?

There is no specific name given to baby ruff, they are referred to as chicks.

What do they eat?

They find fish in shallow water. They also fed on seeds, mayflies, water-beetles, caddisflies, frogs, worms, spiders, aquatic plants, and grasshoppers. The ruff makes regular stops to pick out food while migrating.

Are they dangerous?

No, ruffs are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they would not make a good pet.

Did you know...

Ruffs might be present in coastal Western Europe and Great Britain throughout the year. The winter and breeding range overlaps here.

The history of these birds suggests that ruffs are Old World bird species of the subfamily of sandpipers.

Around 1% of males mimic the female permanently. They are small, and have no breeding plumage like the satellite or territorial males. This male, known as 'faeder or 'father' in old English, is known to steal matings while the female solicits copulation by crouching.

Some of the predators of the ruff are carrion crows, common ravens, and large gulls.

Why is a ruff called a ruff?

Ruff bird is named so because of the collar-like neck ornament of the males. In history, the ruff was a fashionable collar trend in the mid-sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth century, inspired by such plumage.

Why does ruff migrate?

Ruffs are migratory birds, migrating to winter ground in the fall and breeding grounds in the spring.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these parrot facts and duck facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring on one of our free printable Ruff coloring pages.

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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