English and Scientific names:

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Number of individuals: 

1 male in basic plumage


Jeff Davis Parish

Specific Locality:

About Ĺ mile S of junction of Hwy 3056 and Hwy 14, on the W side of Hwy 3056

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

Early afternoon, 2:30 or so.

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Lafayette, LA

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Donna Dittmann, Steve Cardiff

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)

The bird is still being seen as of the writing of this report. Mac Myers, Erik Johnson, James Beck, et al observed it the next day, Jeff Harris reported it today, and others reported it in the interim.

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Sunny, bird to W and sun basically overhead with the slight southern orientation of late February.

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10s, Nikon Fieldscope III ED with 20-60X eyepiece and various camcorder and Nikon D50 connections.

Distance to bird(s): 

Initially about 50 yards, then perhaps 100 yards, out to many hundreds of yards.

Duration of observation:

I watched it for perhaps an hour in all.


A complex of flooded ag fields on SW LA prairie land.

Behavior of bird: 

Bird was first seen as it preened in a flock of dowitchers, both yellowlegs, Dunlin, and Stilt Sandpiper. I saw a bird facing me with brightish white underparts and slight dusky scalloping on the breast but with its head hidden as it preened. I was pretty sure it would prove to be a Ruff so I grabbed a scope and waited for its head to emerge. When it raised its head and confirmed my ID I grabbed a camera (with a short lens) in hopes of getting a recognizable image. I snapped twice, then something flushed the flock and it scattered. I called Steve and informed him Iíd lost a Ruff and might need assistance relocating it. Luckily, within a few minutes the flock shifted again and I spotted the bird and got documentation. As we watched the bird over the course of perhaps an hour, it foraged in the water by picking below the surface, it preened, and it flew with the flock a couple of times.


A medium-sized shorebird, comparable to Greater Yellowlegs. Stocky and thick-necked, hump-backed like surrounding dowitchers, very broad dorso-laterally. Looked relatively small-headed because of its thick neck.


Overall the birdís colors seemed fairly equally split between gray/grayish-brown (above) and whitish (below).


Head: The dividing line between the two basic colors was fairly distinct on the head and neck, with the flat pale gray on crown and auriculars and running back along nape contrasting fairly sharply with the white chin and throat, and dusky whitish upper breast. The general impression the coloration and pattern of the head and neck gave me was similar to a basic plumage Wilsonís Phalarope. Just my impression. There may have been a pale area on the lores, but I didnít note pale feathering at the upper bill base.


Body upperparts: The mantle of the bird was similar in gray to the nape, with a scattering of small dark markings very sparsely mixed in.

The scapulars and coverts were medium gray, perhaps with slightly duskier internal markings on some of these feathers, and fringed broadly with what appeared to be a paler gray, perhaps brownish or grayish-brown. The back appeared scaled.


Rump and upperparts of tail not seen well.††


Underparts: Chin and throat seemed clean white, breast cloudy pale gray with speckling or scalloping of darker markings. Flanks, belly, and vent white. Flanks with pattern of scattered dusky markings.


Underwings clean white with dusky patagium and dusky trailing edge.


Bill about the length of head or longer, stout at base, narrowing toward tip. The bill was curved along its length, not strongly but distinctly, in the way that, say, a Least Sandpiperís bill is. Bill appeared all dark to me in the field, but some photos suggest a bit of orange at the base, perhaps just on base of mandible.


Legs orange or yellow-orange, bright.


Eyes appeared dark.


Not noted

Similar species:

Often cited as similar to Greater Yellowlegs, but clearly differs from Greater Yellowlegs in mantle pattern and in thicker-necked morphology. No other close matches among shorebirds the size and basic structure of this male bird.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Photos and video.

Previous experience with this species: 

Probably a half-dozen other encounters with Ruffs, half of which I have good videotape of. Most of the Ruffs Iíve seen have differed in appearance. This individual is probably most similar to a bird Donna Dittmann and Steve Cardiff found on Hwy 35 in 1994.

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

Memory, photos.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 




Paul Conover

Date and time: 

02/24/2010, 9:40 PM