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Usually seen only on migration in spring an autumn in Dorset

Photograph by: 
Clive Templeton

Ruff rank as one of Dorset's less common waders. They nest mainly in Siberia, Scandinavia and northern Europe down as far as Holland and then migrate in winter, some going as far as South Africa. It is not surprising, then, that only a few end up visiting Dorset as passage migrants or, very occasionally, to over winter here. 

The charts show that the numbers reported seem to vary each year, some years seeing far more than others. The number of reports might give the impression they are quite numerous but this is not the case. They are unusual enough here for every sighting to be reported and so what we are seeing is few visits but each visit being well recorded. The weekly chart shows that ruff can be seen all year round but, again, that is distorted by the presence of one or two long staying individuals who did not return to their breeding area in spring or decided Dorset was warm enough without having to go further south for the winter! Clearly, though, the autumn migration season between week 38 and 43 (September/October) is the most likely time to find them here. Certainly September/October 2017 saw a significant passage.

Ruff may be encountered at almost any of the usual wader sites along the Dorset coast but Lytchett Fields was were the 2017 migration peak occurred and a long staying individual was at Lodmoor for the latter part of 2018 and into 2019.

Predicting the best time and place to see ruff in Dorset is impossible; this is very much a species that one might be lucky enough to encounter on the coast in autumn.



Common Name Ruff
Scientific Name Philomachus pugnax
Species Group Birds Plovers
Status Restricted
Interest Level
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

A redshank-like wader with dark back, orange legs and small head

Identification Notes
  • Winter visitors to Dorset in small numbers
  • About the size of a redshank but with a darker back, orange/yellow legs and small head
  • Tends to prefer scrapes and flooded meadows to more open tidal mudflats
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Plovers