Ruffled feathers

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Ruffled feathers
From: "Trevor Ford" <>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 12:31:52 +1000
It is well documented in current literature that the leg colour of a Ruff
may be black, red, orange or yellow.  What is not so widely known is that a
Ruff can change its leg colour at will, much like a chameleon.  The Ruff is
a scruffy bird, one of the best identification features being the odd
feather poking out as if the bird were backing into a strong wind, and the
ability to change leg colour is a method of establishing its self esteem.
It seeks attention.  In the UK, where Redshank are common, it favours yellow
legs as there would be little to gain by choosing red.  But in Australia,
where Ruff, Redshank and Lesser Yellowlegs are all rarities, it excels.  It
may adopt the entire range of colours during a single day.  It is only a
fortunate few who have witnessed the change taking place, however, as a Ruff
usually disappears for several hours at a time to complete the transition.

A Ruff also has the ability to alter the size and shape of its bill, from
needle-fine to quite stubby.  Little is known whether this is accomplished
by magic, mud or telepathy.  A Ruff's variable size has, of course, been
well recorded, but we conveniently dismiss this phenomenon as a male-female

Finally, a Ruff is proficient at immitating other birds (as well as
Tringas).  On a couple of occasions recently in southeast Queensland, I've
been duped into believing that I was looking at a Great Knot or a
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  Fortunately I was in the company of other folk who
were not so easily fooled.

Cheers - Trevor.

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