Large-sized wader bird (about 30 cm or 12 in). Long neck, small head and short bill. Unmistakable males in the breeding season. Colourful feather neck collars and black, white and ocher striped ear plumes on the head with darker speckles. Brown mottled upperparts, breast and belly. Females alike but without head ornaments and with a whitish belly. In winter males and females show a discreet greyish brown tone in the upperparts and a whitish plumage in the underparts. Yellow or orange legs (grey in juveniles). Bill colour varies according to sex and age.
Arctic species that chooses calm waters of humid climates but without wind. It avoids tidal areas, preferring shores of lakes, marshes, rivers or flooded areas instead
Bird present in the province during its migration and also as a rare wintering species. Very gregarious. The Ruff breeds at the end of April. Nest on the ground, with a laying of 4 eggs. It consumes invertebrates found in the mud or on the surface, both insects and their larvae. This wader avoids probing deepwater silts.
Species that is seen regularly in Malaga, some individuals stay during the winter exceptionally. The mouths of the Guadalhorce and Vélez rivers as well as the lagoons of Campillos and Fuente de Piedra are common places to observe it (stage 18 of the Great Path).
The nuptial behaviour of the Ruff is one of the most showy and complex of birds. It is based on confrontations (combats) between the males in order to attract the attention of the females (hence the Latin name of the species: "pugnax" means "combative"). In these combats the colourful plumage of the males play an important role, similar to that of the antlers of the deer in their fights to maintain a harem during the bellowing.