Birds Of The Worlds:
Curlews And Whimbrels
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Perhaps the most remarkable member of this entire group is the Ruff (Pavoncella pugnax) of temperate Europe and Asia, whence it wanders in winter to Africa, the Indian peninsula, and the Malay Archipelago, very frequently reaching eastern North America. It is related to, and in several respects suggests, our Bartramian Sandpiper, or Upland Plover, but is distinguished at once by the fact that the male assumes during the breeding season a peculiar " cape " or shield-like ruff of feathers on the neck and a tuft of long feathers on the sides of the head, and the face is covered with reddish or yellowish car-uncles. While this ruff is similar in shape in all mature birds, its color varies greatly, hardly two being exactly alike in this respect. The extremes of color are pure white and intense purple-black, between which are " buffs, reds, chest-nuts, browns of many shades, and mottled black or brown and white, often beautifully streaked, or barred, or spotted, or delicately vermiculated." —HUDSON. The general plumage at this time is mottled above with black, buff, and gray, with a great degree of individual variation. The males are about twelve inches long, while the females, or Reeves, as they are called, are two inches shorter and lack the cape or ruff and resemble in coloration the immature males and the males in winter plumage, being barred with blackish, buff, white, and rusty, the lower parts being mostly immaculate white. In addition to the remarkable feather ornaments the males, unlike any other members of the group, are polygamous, being greatly exceeded in numbers by the females, for whose favors they engage in fierce battles, resorting for the purpose to especially selected "hills." In these battles, which usually take place early in the morning, the birds stand facing each other with ruffs erected and thrust at each other with their long, sharp bills; usually, however, though appearing very fierce, little damage is done in the duels. These birds were formerly very abundant in the British Islands, but immense numbers were netted for market during the breeding season and it has now become solely a bird of passage there, resorting to the northern lands for breeding purposes.