1468. Pavoncella pugnax.
The Ruff and Reeve.
Tringa pugnax, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 247 (1766). Pavoncella pugnax, Leach, Syst. Cat. B. M. p. 29 (1816); Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiv, p. 500. Machetes pugnax, Cuv. Regne An, i, p. 490 (1817); Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 460; Davids. & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 89; Hume, ibid, pp. 97, 487 ; id. Cat. no. 880; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 357 ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 873; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 85 ; Butler, ibid. p. 429; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 96 ; Scully, ibid. p. 588; Reid, S. F. x, p. 70; Davidson, ibid. p. 321; Biddulph, Ibis, 1882, p. 287 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 396; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 323; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 177. Philomachus pugnax, G. R. Gray, List Gen. Birds, 2nd ed. 1841, p. 89; Blyth, Cat. p. 270 ; Irby, Ibis, 1861, p. 241: Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 087 ; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xl, pt. 2, p. 270 ; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xii, pt. 2, p. 252; Hume, S. F. i, p. 239; Adam, ibid. p. 396 ; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 156; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 17; v, pp. 224, 233; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 352.
Coloration. Both sexes in winter generally have the forehead, lores, and the cheeks white or whitish, often speckled; sides of head and neck indistinctly speckled with brown; upper parts, including the rurnp and upper tail-coverts, greyish brown ; the feathers with dark centres and pale edges ; greater wing-coverts tipped white; primary-coverts, primaries, and secondaries very dark greyish brown, the secondaries with white borders and some white on the inner webs ; sides of rump white; tail brown like the back ; lower parts, including axillaries, white ; the fore neck and upper breast tinged with brown, to a varying extent, from the feathers having ashy-brown bases.
Very often birds in winter retain traces of the summer plumage, and the feathers, especially the tertiaries, commence to change colour and assume the variegated tints of the nuptial season at times as early as January.
In breeding-dress, acquired partially by moult, the male has the sides of the face and part of the crown covered with yellow tubercles, and develops a ruff of long feathers and occipital tufts. Scarcely any two birds are coloured alike : the head, throat, and breast, with the ruff, are either white, black with a purple or green gloss, chestnut or orange-buff, or any combination of these colours in the form of patches, spots, or bars. The back, scapulars, and inner wing-coverts are variegated with the same tints, and the tertiaries are barred or mottled towards the ends.
Females in summer have the feathers of the upper parts blackish with sandy-buff borders, the tertiaries usually with mottled buff and black bars; feathers of the fore neck and upper neck with buff edges and blackish centres, giving a patchy appearance to the region.
Young birds in autumn closely resemble females in summer dress, except that the tertiaries are not barred and that the lower parts are mostly isabelline-buff, only the abdomen and under tail-coverts being white.
There appear to be two moults of the body-feathers in the year, but it is not quite clear that the quills are renewed, except at the autumn moult. Birds have been taken in North India at the end of June that had already almost dropped their summer plumage and partly assumed the winter dress.
Bill dark brown, paler at the gape ; irides brown ; legs and feet fleshy yellow to yellowish brown in adults, olive-green to leaden grey in the young.
Length of male about 12; tail 2.75; wing 7.3; tarsus 1.9; bill from gape 1.5. Length of female 10; tail 2.25; wing 6; tarsus 1.75; bill 1.4.
Distribution, This bird breeds in the northern temperate zone throughout Europe and Asia, and migrates in winter to Africa and Southern Asia, but is rare east of India. In the cold season it is common in Northern India, but rare in the South, in Ceylon, and generally in Assam and Burma, though Oates found it tolerably abundant about the mouth of the Sittang River.
Habits, &c. In India the Buff is chiefly met with inland in flocks on the borders of tanks and marshes, and in damp grassland, but it is also found about creeks and estuaries in places.
These birds feed on insects, Crustacea, worms, &c, and also on rice and other grain, and when in good condition are excellent eating. They arrive in India as a rule about September, but some come much earlier, and they leave in April, having partially assumed the summer garb. They breed in June, and at this time the males assemble on small selected dry spots in a marsh, where they fight and show off. The eggs, usually four in number, resemble those of a Snipe, but are larger.