(2152) Philomachus pugnax.
THE RUFF AND REEVE.
Tringa pugnax Linn., Syst. .Nat, 10th ed., i, p. 148 (1758) (Sweden).. Pavoncella pugnax. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 268.
Vernacular names. Geh-wala (Hind.).
Description. - Winter plumage. Forehead, feathers round the eye, cheeks and chin whitish, more or less suffused with buff; lores speckled brown and buff; upper parts brown, the feathers of the crown, scapulars and inner secondaries with visible dark brown centres and bands, concealed on the hind-neck and upper back ; tail brown with pale edge to the tip; wing-coverts like the back; the greater with broad white edges, primary coverts black with white edges ; primaries brownish-black with white shafts ; outer secondaries brown with white edges and tips ; lower plumage and axillaries white, the throat, fore-neck and breast suffused with brown or buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill dark brown, more yellow and paler at the base ; legs and feet fleshy-yellow to horny-brown in adults; grey, olive-grey or plumbeous in the young.
Measurements. Wing, 173 to 190 mm., 150 to 166 mm.; tail, 78 to 89 mm., 64 to 70 mm,; tarsus, 46 to 50 mm., 41 to 44 mm.; culmen, 30 to 36 mm., 29 to 31 mm.
In Summer both sexes have the upper parts blackish, the feathers edged with buff or rufous, whilst the breast, flanks etc. are much more suffused with brown.
The male at this season has the face covered with yellow caruncles and grows an enormous ruff which extends from the nape to cover the entire breast. This ruff may be of any colour, chestnut, buff, white, black or grey; sometimes it is immaculate but most often it is closely barred or streaked with blackish; whatever may be the dominating colour of the ruff, it extends to the mantle and scapulars and, less often, to the inner secondaries as well as to the sides of the breast and flanks.
Young birds resemble the female in Summer but are duller and less barred and marked with blackish ; the underparts are more strongly sullied with brownish-isabelline.
Distribution. Northern Europe and Asia, migrating South in Winter to Africa, India, Burma, etc. as far as Ceylon and Tenasserim.
Nidification. The Reeve lays from early May, or even in the last week of April, to the third week in May but in the most Northern parts occasionally in early June. The cock-birds are polygamous and meet on a bare piece of ground regularly in the mornings and evenings, where they fight and display for the possession of the females. The nest is a fairly well lined and very well hidden depression in a tuft of grass in marshland or wet meadow, occasionally in grass on a sand or stony hillock The hens can hardly be said to nest in colonies but, as a rule, several nests will be found close together and not far from the " hill," as the courtship ground is termed. The clutch of eggs is usually four, but three is much more common than with most Waders. They are rather like the eggs of the Great Snipe and some records of the occurrence of the Reeve have been based on the obtaining of eggs which are much more likely to have been those of the Snipe. The ground-colour varies from pale to deep ochraceous, sandy-clay, buff or olive-green and they are blotched with reddish-brown, dull brown and secondary marks of lavender. One hundred and forty-one eggs (Jourdain) average 43.9 x 30.7 mm.: maxima 47.5 X 30.5 and 43.2 x 32.1 mm.; minima 39.8 x 31.6 and 42.9 x 28.0 mm.
Habits. The Ruffs and Reeves, all in Winter dress, arrive in India in the last few days of August or early in September and leave, the males often in nearly full dress, in April. They have much the same habits as the Greenshank but keep more in flocks and more to marsh and dry land than to mud and water. They feed on the same kind of food and also on berries, seeds, rice and other grain and are, when in good condition, excellen eating. Their call is a low " chuck, chuck," but they are, on the whole, silent birds.