Foto: Ruff
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The Ruff (Calidris pugnax) is a fascinating and distinctive species of wading bird that belongs to the large family of shorebirds known as Scolopacidae. This species exhibits a remarkable level of sexual dimorphism, particularly in terms of size and plumage, which makes it a subject of great interest among ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike.

Adult males, known as ruffs, are significantly larger than females, which are referred to as reeves. During the breeding season, which typically spans from late April to July, the males undergo a dramatic transformation. They develop ornate and colorful breeding plumages that include long, decorative feathers on their heads, necks, and chests. These feathers can vary widely in color, ranging from white, black, chestnut, and many shades in between, making each male uniquely adorned. The purpose of this elaborate plumage is to attract females and to intimidate rivals. Males perform elaborate displays and engage in mock battles in lekking grounds, which are communal display areas where females visit to select a mate based on the males' performances.

In stark contrast, the females and non-breeding males have much more subdued appearances. Their plumage is primarily mottled brown and serves as excellent camouflage against the marshy landscapes and grasslands where they forage. This cryptic coloration helps protect them from predators as they search for food.

Ruffs are migratory birds, spending the breeding season in the marshes and wet grasslands across northern Europe and Asia, and wintering in southern Europe, Africa, and southern Asia. Their migration is a testament to their adaptability and resilience, covering thousands of kilometers across continents.

Their diet primarily consists of insects, small invertebrates, and plant material, which they forage for in shallow waters and mudflats. Their long legs enable them to wade through water while their sensitive bills probe the mud for prey.

Conservation status of the Ruff varies regionally, but habitat loss and changes in agricultural practices have led to declines in some areas. However, extensive conservation efforts are in place in many parts of their range to protect their breeding and wintering habitats.

The Ruff is not just a bird; it is a spectacle of nature's diversity and adaptability. Its unique breeding behaviors, striking sexual dimorphism, and long migratory journeys make it a symbol of the natural world's complexity and beauty.
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