Philomachus pugnax


The ruff is a large sandpiper; a typical wader, it feeds in shallow water around lakes and wetland areas near the coast. Just a handful of pairs breed in Britain and although it is a migrant, some birds are present all year-round. During summer, young birds on their way to Africa from Scandinavia stopover in the UK.

How to identify

Most ruff you will see are fairly plain-looking waders with a longish neck and small head. Non-breeding birds are pale fawn-brown all over with a paler belly. Breeding males, however, have a ruff of brightly coloured feathers around the neck, head tufts and a bare, orange face. Ruff have a short, slightly down-curved bill and orangey-yellow legs.

Where to find it

A very rare breeding bird of wet grasslands in East Anglia. Fairly common on migration at wetlands throughout the country.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

The breeding populations of ruff are important in the UK but have declined recently due to the loss of wetland habitats through drainage, development and pollution. The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife happenings, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities and be helping local wildlife along the way.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Philomachus pugnax
Wading birds
Length: 26-32cm Wingspan: 53cm Weight: 110-180g Average Lifespan: 4 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.