Philomachus pugnax

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The specific epithet in the ruff's species name - pugnax from the Latin word for combative - refers to the aggressive behaviour the birds display in mating arenas: in order to impress the females, they perform fighting displays in leks where the female then chooses her partner. The leks are revisited each year. The courtship ritual is complicated and involves three different male strategies for attracting a partner. The typical “territorial male” has a dark collar (like the specimen here) and occupies a territory. Here he actively courts the female with his displays. He may also be accompanied by so called satellite males, the ruff of which is always a bright white. Satellite males do not have their own territory. However, they are tolerated by the territorial male as it elevates his attractiveness by comparison in the eyes of the female bird and thus more desirable as a partner. The satellite males also profit because this increases their own likelihood of finding a partner. The third strategy is the so-called “faeder” male. These males do not moult into a breeding plumage and so they resemble the female. Thus, they avoid the attention of the territorial male and can pair without being noticed. Pairing may also occur outside of the lek, but this is not as common. The spectacular ruff, the characteristic feature of the male breeding plumage, is only on show for a few weeks in the year. These large feathery caps and collars are colored with distinctive rufous, gold, white or black tones. The back is brownish coloured, the breast darkly spotted with white outerparts. The plumage colourations help to denote male hierarchical orders. The females do not have any eye-catching ornamental feathers. They are an inconspicuous spotted brown and are clearly smaller than the males. The females take on sole responsibility for incubating and raising their young.

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