Monday, 22 September 2014


Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) – Boys Bigger Than Girls

The gregarious Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) is a medium sized ‘wading’ bird that is about to grace our shores again here in the North Eastern part of South Africa again shortly. Being a summer visitor to these shores the Ruff is what as known as a Paleartic Migrant a bird which visits from outside the African continent, in this case from Eurasia where it breeds in the marshes and wetlands.
The Ruff over winters here in Southern Africa but does not breed, which is a shame as we in Southern Africa are unable to see that magnificent breeding plumage (or Ruff) of the male bird, that also includes brightly coloured head tufts, bare orange facial skin, extensive black on the breast, and that large collar of ornamental feathers which no doubt gave way to it its name.  The male Ruff also shows a marked sexual dimorphism (size) over the female which are known as ‘Reeves’ and has three different plumage types which includes the rare mimicking of the female bird. The male carries out these courtship displays at a ‘Lek’ and is thus known as ‘Lekking
While breeding it primarily feeds on aquatic insects it forages for in the soft mud of the wetlands it inhabits, however during its winter migration to Southern Africa it has been known to also feed on plant materials like maize.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Female Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) - Male
Male Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) (non breeding) with white head and neck

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