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Classified as "least concern" on the IUCN Red List criteria, the global conservation concerns are relatively low because of the large numbers that breed in Scandinavia and the Arctic.
However, the range in much of Europe is contracting because of land drainage, increased fertiliser use, the loss of mown or grazed breeding sites, and over-hunting.
This decline has seen it listed in the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).
The ruff is a wader in the large family Scolopacidae, the typical shorebirds.
Typical adult male ruffs start to moult into the main display plumage before their return to the breeding areas, and the proportion of birds with head and neck decorations gradually increases through the spring.The striped prenuptial plumages may represent the original breeding appearance of this species, the male's showy nuptial feathers evolving later under strong sexual selection pressures.Adult males and most adult females start their pre-winter moult before returning south, but complete most feather replacement on the wintering grounds.The female and the non-breeding male have grey-brown upperparts and mainly white underparts.Three differently plumaged types of male, including a rare form that mimics the female, use a variety of strategies to obtain mating opportunities at a lek, and the colourful head and neck feathers are erected as part of the elaborate main courting display.
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The female has one brood per year and lays four eggs in a well-hidden ground nest, incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks, which are mobile soon after hatching, on her own.