What is a Ruff???

I finally got a glimpse of the main purpose of the Norwegian and Finnish leg of our great European adventure–the male Ruff.  Artie and Anita wanted to photograph these beauties during the mating season, and after having one chance to photograph these birds so far, I can understand why.

brown ruff 9841

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 1600, hand-held from vehicle

Ruffs and reeves (the females) are considered medium-sized wading birds that breed in marshes and wet meadows across northern Europe and Asia.  During breeding season, the male plumage is a variety of colors that is used to attract a mate.

white ruff 9877

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO 1600, hand-held from vehicle

The males parade in front of females and fluff up the ring of feathers around their necks like a ruffle.  Hence their name!  The males display the the ring of feathers in front of the females, hoping to encourage copulation.

black ruff 0060

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held from vehicle

If there is more than one male in an area with a female, the males begin fighting, putting on a display of jumping, crouching and flaring up their feathers.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of this behavior yet, but Anita made it out shooting that first afternoon (while Artie and I were napping) and was able to capture two birds fighting in an amazing photo!  You can see two of her images on Artie’s blog, here.

When the males are not displaying their feathers, they are rather calm and I even caught one resting.

brown black ruff 0218

Image: Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held from vehicle

All of these images were taken near Kaamanen, Finland alongside a road.  I have learned that these birds are very skittish and fly away in the close proximity of people.  However, they prefer certain spots and often go back to that same exact location.  Artie described it to me as a microhabitat that meets their needs for a breeding location.  Typically, the open grassy area where the males display their feathers is called a lek.  In this case in Kaamanen, the display was along the edge of this road.


Image: iPhone 7 Plus, hand-held from vehicle

The Ruffs pranced just on the other side of the gravel and when a truck drove by, they often flew to the edge of the water several hundred yards away, only to return to the exact same location after some time.  Because of this, we photographed these birds from the van (stationary), so as not to disturb their mating rituals.

Because this is the migration season, the Ruffs and reeves are on their way north, as were we.  We then began our journey north to Norway in hopes of seeing and photographing more of this species.

Info about Ruffs: Ruff website

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Dr. Amy Novotny founded the PABR® Institute with the mission to provide pain, stress and anxiety relief to those who seek a naturalistic form of treatment when other treatment methods have fallen short. Her unique approach comes from her experience treating in a variety of settings and with a wide range of patient populations over the past 12 years. Her background in orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, balance disorders, nerve injuries, and most recently, chronic pain; and influences from coursework at the Postural Restoration Institute gave her the foundation to develop this treatment method to address a wide variety of painful and restrictive conditions. Her methods have helped countless people reduce and eliminate pain, stress, anxiety, orthopedic surgeries, sleep issues and the need for medications. She co-authored two Amazon #1 Best-Selling books Don’t Quit: Stories of Persistence, Courage and Faith and Success Habits of Super Achievers, which share her journey on how and why she developed the PABR® Method. Her ability to speak French and Spanish has allowed her to communicate with and help various clients from all around the world, including France, Mexico, Central America and South America. She has a variety of interests including running 40+ marathons, running 10 ultra marathons (including two 100 milers), completing an Ironman triathlon, photographing wildlife and landscapes all over the world that has led to several of her images being chosen as Photos of the Day, most notably National Geographic Your Shot World Top Photo of the Day. Visit her photography portfolio here!

12 thoughts on “What is a Ruff???”

  1. Those are awesome shots Amy. I shoot with the same system and am very pleased. As I can see your enjoying your time..should be an awesome year. You might come out as a pro bird photographer at the end. Did you worked with Artie to fine tu e your auto focus? Was it off?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jean-Guy! I’m glad to hear that you use the same camera setup. I love it as a more affordable option to the D850 and 600mm setup. I would love to be a pro bird photographer by the end of the year. :-). We did microadjust the lens/camera system right before we left for Europe. It wasn’t off much and all my sandhill crane and osprey shots were done with that set up before the microadjusting.


  2. Thanks Amy they are amazing. I am looking forward to looking at Arties blog. I have a question. How long from breeding to hatching . and will you all be able to be around to take pics of the baby’s? And what is the temp. During breeding?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mike! We haven’t found any nests yet of these guys. Right now, it’s in the 30-40’s which is what they like for breeding. Hopefully we will see more copulation in the next 2 weeks!


  3. Amy, I am so happy for you, I am loving every word you put out there for us. I have a love for the wildlife as well. I pray for you each day on this wonderful journey.


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