June 12th   Leave a comment

Third time lucky. I finally saw the ruff on Balcomie Beach this morning. It was with the turnstones again picking amongst the wrack. It had the makings of most of its ruff – a big black collar of feathers that the males have for a couple of months when breeding. This varies in colour dependent on the individual. It can be white, cream, orange or even black as in this bird. Ruffs have a communal breeding system, where the males gather at traditional display grounds called leks. They parade around and compete for the best central spots and the females come window shopping to find the best ruffed male in the best position. A good looking male will end up fathering lots of chicks because the males don’t take any part in the incubation of the eggs and wader chicks then pretty much take care of themselves. The story gets a little more interesting because there are some males that look just like females, without ruffs or any contrasting feathers. These males, called faeders, loiter around the leks camouflaged like females and then when a male tries to mate with a female they slip in between and take their chance. The eager male with a ruff gets confused, transferring its affection to this apparently eager female, while the apparent female takes advantage of the equally confused real female. Some of the males of both types will carry out their performance at leks in central Europe and then migrate up to the Arctic to perform again as the season starts up there a few weeks later. Whether the male this morning is on its way further north or has finished for the year is impossible to tell. I would like to think he is having a recharge of his batteries with us before heading off to some more glory in Vladivostock.

The male ruff at Balcomie this morning

The male ruff at Balcomie this morning

Posted June 12, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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