The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ruff

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RUFF, a sandpiper (Machetes pugnax) of the northern parts of the Old World, the female of which is called “reeve.” It is about 10 inches long and the bill 1¼; above it is varied with black, rufous and gray, arranged in oblique bands on the scapulars and tertiaries and whitish below; primaries dark brown, with green reflections above and with inner webs finely mottled toward the base; the tail transversely barred; sides of rump white, bill brown and legs yellow. The males in spring have the feathers of the neck developed into a kind of ruff, whence the common name, and the face is covered with reddish papillæ. They fight during the breeding season, unlike most wading birds; they are also polygamous and larger than the females, in these respects seeming to form one of the links between wading and gallinaceous birds. The colors of the ruff vary exceedingly and no two are precisely similar. They are natives of northern Europe and Asia, migrating southward during winter, and they are found chiefly in flocks, in marshy districts; they feed at night on worms, insects and larvæ; the nest is made of coarse grass and is placed in a hollow of the ground; the eggs are four or five, pointed, green, with brown specks. Their flesh is highly esteemed for the table; they are taken alive in nets and are fattened for market on bread and milk and boiled wheat, in a dark place to prevent their fighting; great numbers are sent from Holland to London.