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Calidris pugnax

Length: 10 to 12 inches Wingspan: 18 to 20 inches Seasonality: Rare Migrant
ID Keys: Distinct in breeding plumage, with large neck ruffs and feather tufts on heads.  In winter plumage, buff-brown overall, small round head, and short bill.

Ruff - Calidris pugnaxThe Ruff is normally a bird of Eurasia, but is a regular stray to North America.  Most are found along either U.S. coast, and they are only rarely found inland.  Spring males have extremely unusual breeding plumages, with large neck ruffs and head tufts of a variety of colors (see photo to the right).   Immature birds and birds in winter plumage have a much plainer plumage (see photo at the bottom.

Habitat: Migrants in North America are most often found on shallow ponds or marshes a short distance from the coastlines, as well as salt-marshes.

Diet: Insects make up a large portion of its diet, but they also will feed on small mollusks and crustaceans, small fish, frogs and tadpoles, worms, and seeds.

Behavior: Forages on land or in shallow water, walking along and either picking up items from the surface, or probing in the water, sand, or mud.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Generally silent, but sometimes a soft tu-whik when flushed.

Migration: Normally a bird of Eurasia, but they are regular (if rare) migrants in North America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Ruff sightings

Similar Species: Upland Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, for non-breeding and immature birds.  Males in their spring breeding plumage are quite distinctive.

Conservation Status: Loss of wetland habitat has resulted in declines in its normal Eurasian range.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Ruff

2) Audubon Guide - Ruff

3) Ruff - WhatBird

Photo Information: Top Photo: Photo from Ohio, courtesy of Lana Hays

Bottom Photo: Taken in Denmark, August 2005 by Helge Sørensen


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Ruff - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare migrant, with only a handful of records in the state.

Additional Ruff Photos (coming soon!)