Calidris Pugnax – Ruff

Calidris Pugnax - Ruff found in the US

The ruff (Calidris pugnax) is a medium-sized wading bird found throughout northern Eurasia. It breeds in marshes and damp meadows. This gregarious sandpiper migrates and occasionally forms massive flocks in its wintering areas, which include southern and western Europe, Africa, southern Asia, and Australia.

Quick Overview: Calidris Pugnax – Ruff
Body size: Around 8-12 in (20-30 cm) and a weight of 254 g (8.95 oz)
Main colors: White, Black, Brown, Orange-Yellow, Orange-Brown, Orange
Range: Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: March, April, May, September, October, November
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Ruff Description

The frilly tufts on the throat of this giant sandpiper vary in color from black to rufous, white to speckled and barred. Its head is orange-brown with a white belly, its bill is orange with a dark drooped tip, and its legs are orange-yellow.

Calidris Pugnax - Ruff found in the US
Calidris Pugnax – Ruff. Photo by: Nick Goodrum


These birds have a length of 8-12 in (20-30 cm) and a weight of 254 g (8.95 oz). Their wings could range from 18-22 in (46-56 cm).


The ruff consumes insects (including caddisflies, water beetles, mayflies, and grasshoppers) during migration and the winter, as well as crustaceans, spiders, molluscs, worms, frogs, and tiny fish, as well as seeds of rice and other cereals, sedges, grasses, and aquatic plants.


Breeds on grassy wet meadows in the lowlands; winters in wet meadows, muddy pool and lake margins, and brackish coastal lagoons.


The ruff is a wader belonging to the vast family Scolopacidae, which includes most shorebirds. The specific epithet relates to the bird’s aggressive behavior in mating arenas – pugnax is derived from the Latin word for “combative.”

Calidris Pugnax Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Calidris
  • Species: Calidris pugnax

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds are during the Spring season (March-May) and during the Autumn season (September – November).

Distribution of the Ruff in the USA

Breeds throughout Eurasia; nests on occasion in northwestern Alaska. Winters primarily in Africa; an uncommon but regular migrant to Hawaii, Alaska, and the east coast of North America during the breeding season.

The Ruff can be found in the following states in the United States – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Calidris Pugnax – Ruff

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