Ruff

Calidris pugnax

A large population of the Ruff migrates annually to South Africa to spend the austral summer here, the first birds arriving from August and the last departing back to breed in northern Europe and Siberia by April. A few individuals choose to remain here throughout our winter. They’re mostly seen at and around shallow dams, marshes, estuaries and along the beach, occasionally also spending time in adjacent grass- and farmlands. They feed in the water and on dry land, consuming seeds and a wide variety of invertebrates as well as small frogs and small fish.

Ruffs are social birds, usually seen in small groups here but often forming immense flocks while migrating. In their non-breeding plumage which we see here in South Africa, male and female Ruffs look very similar, except that the male, at around 200g in weight, is almost twice as big as the female. They have a wingspan of approximately 55cm.

With a global population estimated in the millions, the IUCN considers the Ruff to be of least concern. Their distribution range spans over Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa, sometimes straying to North America as well, depending on the time of year. During their time in South Africa they can be expected at almost any body of water throughout the country, even occurring at man-made impoundments in the arid west of the country.

20 thoughts on “Ruff

  1. BETH

    This delicate little bird looks almost like a crane without the longer legs. It really is pretty.
    I read somewhere that some eagles can live a long time. What do you know about that?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Indeed eagles are among the most long-lived birds, Beth, and a healthy individual can easily live longer than 30 years in the wild if left unmolested by humans.

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  2. amoralegria

    I took a photo a few years ago in Sweden of a bird that looked very much like this bird — the feathers are remarkably similar. Since it was the Northern Hemisphere’s summer at the time, perhaps it was a ruff!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I sighed a sigh of relief when I learned yesterday morning that under level 3 we may at least visit our provincial reserves again and can’t wait for them to re-open given a few days to prepare.

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  3. H.J. for avian101

    I’ve never seen this bird before, there are many sandpipers that resemble it. It’s hard to tell. Thank you, D. 🙂

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