Ruff  Philomachus pugnax


  • Philomachus : Greek word philomakhos  – pugnacious, martial  drived from philos-loving; makhomai- to fight
  • Pugnax :  Latin word for “fond of fighting” derived from  pugnare –to fight 

Vernacular Names: Hindi: Gehwala, Bagbad, Pun: Ruffreev, Ben: Geowala, Guj: Tiliyo, Mar: Gherbala, Galabandh/ Bandkhorpanlawa, Ta: Varacheravi, Mal: Bahuvarnanmanaloothi

Distribution in India: Breeds in Kutch and widespread winter visitor and passage migrant in India.

Description: Size of 26–32 cm, wt. of 130–254 g, wingspan 54–58 cm for male; Size of 20–25 cm, wt. of 70–170 g, wingspan 48–52 cm for female. The male has head-tufts and ruff variably coloured buff, chestnut, dark purple, black or white, often barred or flecked. Thewhite coloration of tufts and ruff associated with satellite behavioral role. The mantle and scapulars vary from black to brown, buff, chestnut, ochre or white; yellow to brown facial warts. The underparts are usually dark, lower belly and undertail is white. The bill is brown to dull orange and legs are yellow-green to dark orange.  Male nuptial ornament diversity is extensive and ruff, head-tufts and facial wattles differ in coloration and pattern individually. The female has grey-brown upperparts with white-fringed, dark-centered feathers. The breast and flanks are variably blotched with black. The non-breeding adult male is like breeding female, but paler grey-brown above with whiter lower face and dusky buff on breast; bill dark, legs duller; some males retains much white on head and neck. The juvenile has buff-fringed dark brown upperparts and rufous-buff foreneck, breast and belly; face is  buff with pale throat; bill and legs as in breeding female

Habitat: It breeds in coastal tundra to forest tundra, near small lakes, in marshes and deltas with shallow-water margins, variably covered with vegetation, and dry mounds and slopes with some low scrub for leks, damp to swampy meadows, often with shallow pools or ditches, and patches of birch, willow scrub and short grass or bare ground. In non-breeding season, found in muddy margins of lakes, pools, ponds, rivers, marshes and flooded areas, including brackish, saline or alkaline waters.

Food habits: During breeding season, it eats terrestrial and aquatic insects, including adults and larvae, particularly of beetles and dipteran flies. In non-breeding season it eats caddisflies, water-bugs, mayflies and grasshoppers, small crustaceans, spiders, small molluscs, annelid worms, frogs and small fish. It also eats rice seeds and other cereals, sedges, grasses and aquatic plants. It probes in mud or soil and picks prey from surface or plants; sometimes follows ploughs or wades in shallow water. It is nocturnal and diurnal feeder. 

Breeding habits: They breed in May in NW Europe, Sweden and Jun in Finland. It is polygynous, with no true pair-bond; mating primarily occurs at traditional leks where males gather to display and females visit. The nest is concealed in marsh plants or meadow grass. The nest is a shallow scrape lined with grass, leaves and stems. They lay a clutch of 3-4 eggs, laid at 24–36 hour intervals. The incubation period is 20–23 days, starting with last egg. The incubation and brood rearing is done by female only; .The fledging period is 25–28 days. The female leaves chicks some days before fledging.

Additional Information on breeding strategy :

There are three types of males that appear on arenas:

(1) Residents, possessing small territories (‘courts’)

(2) Marginal, without territory

(3) Satellites, occurring on periphery and mating opportunistically

The satellites generally have white tufts and ruffs. The plumage diversity is useful to signal status (satellite or independent male). The satellite males benefit from signaling their mating strategy and their white plumage enables admission to mating sites and, in combination with particular postures, restrains territory holders from attacking them. The plumage diversity may also serve to signal individual identity, in a species that does not sing. Being identifiable is beneficial for territorial males that have settled on a lek; their neighbors have tested their fighting abilities and will avoid their territory. This minimizes violence to ritual attacks or very short fights. Males of an additional female-like morph that are; intermediate-sized, permanently female-plumaged individuals represent an odd example of ‘sexual mimicry’, a strategy used to gain access to females without inducing aggression from other males. Many females may copulate during migration.