At a Glance

Of the various Eurasian shorebirds that stray into North America, this one is the most regular and widespread in its occurrence. Ruffs are best known for their bizarre courtship plumage and rituals. In spring, male Ruffs are wildly variable in color and pattern of their neck ruffs and head tufts; they gather on display grounds, or 'leks,' and display to attract females. Rudimentary displays are occasionally seen from spring migrant Ruffs in North America.
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Low Concern
Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Southeast, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

In North America, a regular stray near both coasts, less frequent in the interior. Found somewhat more often in fall than in spring.


11" (28 cm). Spring males highly variable and colorful, with neck ruffs and head tufts of chestnut, black, and white. In other plumages, best known by overall buff brown look, and by shape: stocky body, small round head, short bill. Legs vary from orange to greenish. Males are much larger than females.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Orange, Red, Tan, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Usually silent, but occasionally a soft tu-whit when flushed.
Call Pattern
Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Raucous


Grassy marshes, mudflats, flooded fields. Migrants in North America often are seen on marshes or ponds a short distance inland; on the coast, they favor estuaries, lagoons, mudflats at inlets, salt marshes. Generally not on open sandy beaches.



4, sometimes 2-3. Olive to green, blotched with brown. Incubation is by female only, 20-23 days.


Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Female feeds young at first, but they learn to feed themselves after a few days. Age at first flight about 25-28 days.

Feeding Behavior

Forages while walking or wading, by picking up items from surface or probing in water or mud. Sometimes forages actively, running about on open mudflats. May feed by day or night.


Mostly insects and other invertebrates, also seeds. Diet in North America not well known. In Eurasia, eats many insects, especially flies, beetles, caddisflies. Also eats small mollusks, crustaceans, spiders, worms, small fish, frogs. During migration and winter may eat many seeds, sometimes forming major part of diet.


Has nested once in Alaska, but information here applies to Eurasian birds. Males gather in spring on "leks" and display to attract females. In display, male raises head tufts and neck ruff, flutters wings, may leap in air; many other elaborate postures including bowing, crouching with feathers fluffed up, standing tall. Usually silent during display. Males often fight. Female visits lek, mates with one of the males; male takes no part in caring for eggs or young. Nest site is on ground, well hidden in grass or marsh. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression lined with grasses.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Has decreased in some parts of European range because of loss of wetland habitat.