Birdwatch: the ruff– which was called initially, the collar or the bird?|Environment


Sporting the magnificent feathery collars that provide the ruff its name, they advised me of the foppish, preening courtiers of Tudor times.

This trio of male ruffs, in addition to a much smaller sized woman (referred to as a reeve) were desperately feeding at the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve. This is among their favoured stopover points on their long journey north, from Africa to the Arctic tundra.

Once they get here there, the males will collect in a “lek”: a common screen location where they perform their sophisticated courtship routines, looking for to frighten their competitors and draw in a mate.

Lekking, a behaviour shown the black grouse and capercaillie, is not the ruff’s only curious function. You may be forgiven for presuming these males came from 3 entirely various types: one’s ruff was practically black; another had a striking white spot throughout its face; while the 3rd revealed abundant chestnut tones.

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One concern stays: was the bird called after the elaborate lace collar, or the collar called after the bird? With other types whose names are synonyms with familiar items– such as the kite and crane– we understand the bird’s name preceded. With the ruff, we can not be so sure.

However in either case, viewing these striking birds here on the Somerset Levels was an unforeseen, and extremely welcome, pleasure.

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