RUFF – (Calidris pugnax)
The Ruff is a very social wading bird in the sandpiper family. The male is larger than the female, at a length of around 30 cm (12 in.). The male in breeding plumage wears a large ‘ruff’ – this word comes from a large pleated and starched white (generally) collar worn by people in Europe in the 1500s. The color of the collar in the breeding ruff varies from white to black with head tufts of different colors. The back is brown with white at the tip of the feathers, the throat is black and the under parts white. The bill and the legs are orange. The female (also called ‘reeve) has a rusty head and a similar coloring as the male on the back; the bill is dark and the legs are light brown. The neck and breast are light grey with mottled brown, and the under parts are whitish.
The ruff breeds in marshes and other wetlands of northern Europe and Russia, and winters in Africa for the most part. The bird is thus a long distance traveler. When migrating, these birds can form very large flocks, and also on their wintering grounds. Ruffs will eat insects – both on the ground and under water – in the summer, and will add grain – notably rice in paddies – and seeds in the winter.
The ruff does not breed on PEI and is a vagrant, i.e. this island is outside of its normal range. Only a few accidental sightings have been recorded, the last one – of a female – being at the PEI National Park on May 20, 2017. Before that, other sightings for females were recorded in the same area. Photo below by Arjan Haverkamp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.