ruff and reeve



ruff and reeve defined in 1930 year

ruff and reeve - Ruff and Reeve;
ruff and reeve - The male in spring dress has the face covered with yellowish caruncles; a tuft of long feathers on each side of the head; throat furnished with a shield-like ruff of feathers; general plumage mottled with ash, black, brown, yellowish, and white, the ornamental feathers being differently coloured in almost every individual. In his winter plumage the male has the face feathered, and is without the ruff and ear-like tufts; under parts pale buff. Length, twelve inches. The female, or reeve, is a third smaller than the male, and in colour resembles the male in his winter dress.

If by chance the reader has seen in some museum or collection a group of ruffs in full breeding-plumage, displaying their immense, shield-like ruffs of many colours, their beauty, singularity, and wonderful variety must have astonished him. The curious feather ornament is similar in form in all the birds, but the colour varies infinitely, and it is hard to find two birds exactly alike. In some individuals it is entirely white, in others intense purple-black, and between these two extremes numberless varieties are found - buffs, reds, chestnuts, browns of many shades, and mottled black or brown and white, often beautifully streaked, or barred, or spotted, or delicately vermiculated. But, alas! these dead, stuffed birds, standing immovable by means of wire frames - a burlesque on the wonderful living creatures - are the only ruffs he is ever likely to see, since this bird, as a breeding species, has now been extirpated in England. On migration in autumn and spring it still visits our coasts, but in small numbers, and probably not very regularly. These visitors, or stragglers, are without the wonderful feather ornaments, which are nuptial, and assumed about the middle of May, to be worn only for about six weeks.

The ruff is polygamous; and in spring the birds have the habit of meeting on some small dry spot, or hillock, in a marsh to show off and fight for the possession of the females, or reeves. When engaging in combat the birds stand face to face, like fighting-cocks, their great feather shields erected, and thrust at each other with their long beaks. These combats usually take place early in the morning; and formerly, when the birds were abundant, the marsh- men made it their business to find the hillocks used by the birds, and set horsehair nooses on them. The birds taken were fattened for the market, and it was owing to this system of persecution during the breeding season that the ruffs were reduced to a mere remnant; and the remnant has since been destroyed by collectors. In Lincolnshire the ruffs and reeves finally ceased to breed in 1882; in Norfolk the last few pairs of the once numerous British race lingered on until within the last three or four years.

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