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Ruff Calidris pugnax
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Taxonomic note
Calidris pugnax (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Philomachus.

Philomachus pugnax (Linnaeus, 1758)

Distribution and population
There is evidence to suggest that the European population (200,000-510,000 pairs, occupying 50-74% of the global breeding range) has declined by up to 30% over ten years (three generations), but this may reflect shifts in breeding populations, populations in Asia are not thought to be declining and wintering populations in Africa appear to be increasing.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number 2,000,000-2,600,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in China; c.50-1,000 individuals on migration and < c.50 wintering individuals in Taiwan and c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

This species is fully migratory and travels on a broad front across Europe (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds from May to August (Hayman et al. 1986) with males gathering in suitable lekking areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Flint et al. 1984) and females nesting solitarily or in semi-colonial groups (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species departs the breeding grounds between late-June and August, returning from the wintering grounds from March to mid-May (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species migrates in large flocks of hundreds or thousands of individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and forms huge dense groups on its wintering grounds (Hayman et al. 1986). The species inhabits tundra habitats from the coast to the Arctic treeline (Johnsgard et al. 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996) during the breeding season, requiring adjacent foraging, lekking and nesting areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It shows a preference for dry mounds and slopes with low willow Salix spp. and dwarf birch Betula spp. as lekking areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), and dry patches of tall sedge as nesting sites (Snow and Perrins 1998). Suitable foraging habitats include littoral belts, deltas (Snow and Perrins 1998), coastal saltmarshes (Johnsgard et al. 1981) and extensive lowland freshwater wetlands such as small shallow lakes with marginal vegetation (Johnsgard et al. 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), grassy hummocky marshes (Johnsgard et al. 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), and damp swampy grasslands (Johnsgard et al. 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), with shallow pools or ditches (del Hoyo et al. 1996). During the non-breeding season the species occupies the muddy margins of brackish, saline and alkaline lakes, ponds, pools, rivers, marshes and food-plains (del Hoyo et al. 1996), as well as freshly mown or grazed short-sward grasslands (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and wheat- or rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996), usually roosting at night in the shallow waters of lake shores (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species rarely utilises intertidal habitats (Hayman et al. 1986) but may frequent tidal mudflats and lagoons in India (del Hoyo et al. 1996). During the breeding season the species's diet consists almost entirely of adult and larval terrestrial and aquatic insects such as Coleoptera and Diptera (del Hoyo et al. 1996). On passage and during the winter the species takes insects (e.g. caddisflies, water-bugs, mayflies and grasshoppers), small crustaceans, spiders, small molluscs, annelid worms, frogs, small fish and the seeds of rice and other cereals, sedges, grasses and aquatic plants (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The nest is a shallow scrape (del Hoyo et al. 1996) concealed in marsh vegetation or meadow grass (del Hoyo et al. 1996) on damp ground (Johnsgard et al. 1981) usually more than 100 m away from the nearest lek site (Johnsgard et al. 1981). The species nests solitarily or semi-colonially, neighbouring nests occasionally only a few metres apart (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information Intensive grazing of grassland (> 1 cow per hectare) was found to attract a higher abundance of this species in Hungary (Baldi et al. 2005).

The species is threatened by petroleum pollution (Grishanov 2006), wetland and flood-plain drainage ( del Hoyo et al. 1996, Grishanov 2006) (for irrigation and water management) (Grishanov 2006), peat-extraction, and land abandonment and changing land management practices that lead to scrub and reed overgrowth (Grishanov 2006). The species may also suffer future population declines and range contractions as a result of global climate change (Zöckler 2002), and is susceptible to avian influenza (Melville and Shortridge 2006, Gaidet et al. 2007), avian botulism (Blaker 1967, van Heerden 1974, Hubalek et al. 2005) and avian malaria (Mendes et al. 2005), so may be threatened by future outbreaks of these diseases.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Blaker, D. 1967. An outbreak of Botulinus poisoning among waterbirds. Ostrich 38(2): 144-147.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Flint, V.E., Boehme, R.L., Kostin, Y.V. and Kuznetsov, A.A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, A. J. 1986. Shorebirds. Croom Helm, London.

Hubalek, Z., Skorpikova, V.; Horal, D. 2005. Avian botulism at a sugar beet processing plant in South Moravia (Czech Republic). Vetinarni Medicina 50(10): 443-445.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johnsgard, P. A. 1981. The plovers, sandpipers and snipes of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, U.S.A. and London.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Mendes, L.; Piersma, T.; Lecoq, M.; Spaans, B.; Ricklefs, E. 2005. Disease-limited distributions? Contrasts in the prevalence of avian malaria in shorebird species using marine and freshwater habitats. Oikos 109: 396-404.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

van Heerden, J. 1974. Botulism in the Orange Free State goldfields. Ostrich 45(3): 182-184.

Wetland International - China Office. 2006. Relict Gull surveys in Hongjianao, Shaanxi Province. Newsletter of China Ornithological Society 15(2): 29.

Zöckler, C. 2002. Declining Ruff Philomachus pugnax populations: a response to global warming? Wader Study Group Bulletin 97: 19-29.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Malpas, L. & Symes, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Calidris pugnax. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,580,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment