Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine
Listed migratory - Bonn, CAMBA, JAMBA, ROKAMBA
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005c) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
 
Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009aj) [Admin Guideline].
 
Draft background paper to EPBC Act policy statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009bc) [Admin Guideline].
 
Shorebirds - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Listed Migratory Species - Approval of an International Agreement (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007h) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011 list)
Scientific name Philomachus pugnax [850]
Family Scolopacidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Linnaeus,1758)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Philomachus pugnax

Common name: Ruff

The Ruff is a medium sized wader and member of the Calidridinae family. Males have a length of 26–32 cm while females are 20–25 cm long, males weigh 180 g while females weigh 110 g. The species has a small head with a low sloping forehead, enhancing its drawn out facial appearance. It has a long neck, bulky deep-bellied body which is often hunched back. The legs are short to medium in length, the bill is slightly decurved. At rest the folded primaries are level with the tip of the tail. The males of the species are close in size to the Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia, while the females (referred to as Reeve(s)) are similiar to the Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria intepres. There is a marked seasonal variation in plumages, with the juveniles being distinctive and the immatures separable (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Ruff is a rare but regular visitor to Australia, being recorded in all States and Territories.

Queensland, NSW and Victorian distribution
In Queensland the Ruff is widely scattered at several localities. It has been recorded at Edward River, Hasties Swamp, Atherton Tableland, Townsville and Alva. In the south-east it has been recorded at Lytton, Myrtletown, Luggage Point, Nudgee and Dyer's Lagoon. There is also an unverified report of the species at Cairns. In NSW the species has been recorded at Kurnell, Tomki, Casino, Ballina, Kooragang Island, Broadwater Lagoon and Little Cattai Creek. The species has also found around the Riverina, including Windouran Swamp, Wanganella, Fivebough Swamo abd the Tullakool Saltworks. Most NSW records come from the Sydney region. In Victoria the species is recorded around Port Phillip Bay, Lake Murdeduke, Ryan's Swamp and the Mildura Sewage Farm. The species has also been recorded in the Murray Valley, between Swan Hill and Cohuna, as well as Mystic Park. There are unverified reports at Tankerton, French Island and Lake Corangamite (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Tasmania and South Australia distribution
In Tasmania the species is considered vagrant. Records exist for Orielton Lagoon, Barilla Bay and Cape Portland. In South Australia the species has been recorded at Buckland Park, Bool Lagoon, Langhorne Creek and Tolderol-Mosquito Point. The species is also found at several locations around Gulf St Vincent, especially the ICI (St Kilda) Saltworks, Buckland Park and the Whyalla Saltfields. The species has also been sighted at Bird Island, Wallaroo (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Western Australia and Northern Territory distribution
In Western Australia the species has been recorded at the lower King River and it is mostly found in the south-west region of the state. It has been sighted at the Vasse River estuary, north to Namming Lake and Lake McLarty. It has been periodically recorded at Port Hedland, Kununurra and the Argyle Diamond Mine. There are unconfirmed reports at Curlewis Camp, Millstream Chichester, Broome and Roebuck Bay. In the Northern Territory the species has been recorded around Darwin, Colac Bay, Lake Ellesmere, Lake Poukawa and Lake Wainono (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Breeding season distribution
The Ruff breeds in Europe from north Russia to north-west Kazakhstan. There are scattered and irregular records of the species on the British Isle. The main distribution in Europe begins in Belgium, goes north to Denmark, east through Poland to the eastern Baltic countries. The species is also found in Alaska and Norway (on the north, west and central coastal regions) as well as northern Sweden and most of Finland. The species is found in Russia, from the borders with Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Poland, east to the northern area of the Chukotskiy Peninsula. The species is found in the Urals, south to the Ob River, to north of the Arctic Circle. Further south, isolated breeding occurs in the Ural'sk region on the Ural River, Irtysh River (around Omsk), Ob River (around Tomsk), Lake Baikal area, Magadan region, Sakhalin Island and the headwaters of the Ob and Yenisey Rivers.

Non-breeding season distribution
During the non-breeding season the Ruff is found mostly in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and less often, southern Europe. In Africa the species is found along the Mediterranean coasts and the Nile River; mainly south of the line from south Mauritania to the junction of the Blue and White Nile Rivers, east to the coast of the Red Sea with scattered records on the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf. The species is widespread in the Indian Subcontinent and is found in the east from the Bay of Bengal, Indochina and south-east China. The species is uncommon to Indomalaya, the Philippines, Indonesia, Micronesia and New Guinea. It has occasionally been recorded in North America, the Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, The Faeroes and Cape Verde Island (Higgins & Davies 1996).

In Australia the Ruff is found on generally fresh, brackish of saline wetlands with exposed mudflats at the edges. It is found in terrestrial wetlands including lakes, swamps, pools, lagoons, tidal rivers, swampy fields and floodlands. They are occasionally seen on sheltered coasts, in harbours, estuaries, seashores and are known to visit sewage farms and saltworks. They are sometimes found on wetlands surrounded by dense vegetation including grass, sedges, saltmarsh and reeds. They have been observed on sand spits and other sandy habitats including shingles. The Ruff forages on exposed mudflats, in shallow water and occasionally on dry mud. They have been observed foraging in dry waterside plants and in swampy areas next to aeration tanks in sewage farms. They prefer to roost amongst shorter vegetation (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Ruff is insectivorous throughout the breeding grounds, however, it is omnivorous elsewhere. It is diurnal and nocturnal. The species uses its bill to probe and peck in water, dry land and among dead vegetation at the edge of the water. It is sometimes known to crane its neck to glean items above its bead. There is no specific information on the Ruff in Australia, however it is believed to feed on moss, plant fibre, seeds, annelids, molluscs, crustaceans, spiders, insects, fish and amphibians (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Ruff is migratory, breeding in Eurasia and north-west Alaska and migrating south for the winter. The origin of the birds that migrate to Australia, including there migration route, is not known. They are known to be in Australia from September–April (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Global Threats
There are a number of threats that affect migratory shorebirds in the Flyway. The greatest threat is indirect and direct habitat loss (Melville 1997). Staging areas used during migration through eastern Asia are being lost and degraded by activities which are reclaiming the mudflats for development or developing them for aquaculture (Barter 2002, 2005c; Ge et al. 2007; Round 2006). This is especially evident in the Yellow Sea, where at least 40% of intertidal areas have been reclaimed. This process is continuing at a rapid rate and may accelerate in the near future (Barter 2002, 2005c). For example, in South Korea, the Mangyeung and Dongjin River estuaries each supported 5% of the combined estimated Flyway populations (and are the most important sites for this species on both northern and southern migration) but they are currently being reclaimed as part of the Saemangeum Reclamation Project (Barter 2002, 2005c). The 33 km sea-wall across these two estuaries was completed in April 2006, resulting in significant change in the 40 100 ha area (Barter 2005c).

Reclamation is also a threat in other areas of the Flyway, such as in Malaysia (Wei et al. 2006). In addition, water regulation and diversion infrastructure in the major tributaries have resulted in the reduction of water and sediment flows (Barter 2002; Barter et al. 1998).

Migratory shorebirds are also adversely affected by pollution, both on passage and in non-breeding areas (Harding et al. 2007; Melville 1997; Round 2006; Wei et al. 2006). Disturbance from human activities, including recreation, shellfish harvesting, fishing and aquaculture is likely to increase significantly in the future (Barter et al. 2005; Davidson & Rothwell 1993).

It is predicted that the rate of decrease in the intertidal area in the Yellow Sea will accelerate (Barter 2002). In addition, intensive oil exploration and extraction, and reduction in river flows due to upstream water diversion, are other potentially significant threats in parts of China where this species is present in internationally significant numbers (Barter 2005c; Barter et al. 1998).

Global warming and associated changes in sea level are likely to have a long-term impact on the breeding, staging and non-breeding grounds of migratory waders (Harding et al. 2007).

Hunting is still a very serious problem for waders in China, and this species is sometimes caught (Ming et al. 1998).

Australia
Within Australia, there are a number of threats common to most migratory shorebirds, including the Ruff.

Habitat loss
The loss of important habitat reduces the availability of foraging and roosting sites. This affects the ability of the birds to build up the energy stores required for successful migration and breeding. Some sites are important all year round for juveniles who may stay in Australia throughout the breeding season until they reach maturity. A variety of activities may cause habitat loss. These include direct losses through land clearing, inundation, infilling or draining. Indirect loss may occur due to changes in water quality, hydrology or structural changes near roosting sites (DEWHA 2009aj).

Habitat degradation
As most migratory shorebirds have specialized feeding techniques, they are particularly susceptible to slight changes in prey sources and foraging environments. Activities that cause habitat degradation include (but are not restricted to): (1) loss of marine or estuarine vegetation, which is likely to alter the dynamic equilibrium of sediment banks and mudflats; (2) invasion of intertidal mudflats by weeds such as cord grass; (3) water pollution; (4) changes to the hydrological regime and (5) exposure of acid sulphate soils, hence changing the chemical balance at the site (DEWHA 2009aj).

Disturbance
Disturbance can result from residential and recreational activities including; fishing, power boating, four wheel driving, walking dogs, noise and night lighting. While some disturbances may have only a low impact it is important to consider the combined effect of disturbances with other threats. Roosting and foraging birds are sensitive to discrete, unpredictable disturbances such as loud noises (i.e. construction sites) and approaching objects (i.e. boats). Sustained disturbances can prevent shorebirds from using parts of the habitat (DEWHA 2009aj).

Direct mortality
Direct mortality is a result of human activities around the migration pathways of shorebirds and at roosting and foraging sites. Examples include the construction of wind farms in migration or movement pathways, bird strike due to aircraft, hunting, chemical and oil spills (DEWHA 2009aj).

Governments and conservation groups have undertaken a wide range of activities relating to migratory shorebird conservation (AGDEH 2005c) both in Australia and in cooperation with other countries associated with the Flyway.

Australia
The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support the Flyway shorebird conservation initiatives and provides a strategic framework to ensure these activities and future research and management actions are integrated and remain focused on the long-term survival of migratory shorebird populations and their habitats.

Since 1996–97, the Australian Government has invested approximately $5 000 000 of Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding in projects contributing to migratory shorebird conservation (DEWHA 2007e). This funding has been distributed across a range of important projects, including the implementation of a nationally coordinated monitoring programme that will produce robust, long-term population data able to support the conservation and effective management of shorebirds and their habitat, migration studies using colour bands and leg flags, and development of a shorebird conservation toolkit to assist users to develop and implement shorebird conservation projects.

Birds Australia is currently co-ordinating the Shorebirds 2020 project, which aims to monitor shorebird populations at important sites throughout Australia. Birdlife International is identifying sites and regions which are important to various species of birds, including shorebirds, and the processes that are affecting them. The aim of these activities is to inform decisions on the management of shorebird habitat. It may be possible to rehabilitate some degraded wetlands or to create artificial wader feeding or roosting sites to replace those destroyed by development, such as by creating artificial sandflats and sand islands from dredge spoil and by building breakwaters (Dening 2005; Straw 1992a, 1999).

The Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (DEWHA 2009aj) provides guidelines for determining the impacts of proposed actions on migratory shorebirds. The policy statement also provides mitigation strategies to reduce the level and extent of those impacts. The policy aims to promote ecologically sustainable development that allows for the continued ecological function of important habitat for migratory shorebirds (DEWHA 2009aj).

International
Australia has played an important role in building international cooperation to conserve migratory birds. In addition to being party to international agreements on migratory species, Australia is also a member of the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Flyway Partnership), which was launched in Bogor, Indonesia on 6 November 2006. Prior to this agreement, Australia was party to the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy and the Action Plan for the Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network, which is part of the broader Flyway Partnership, promotes the identification and protection of key sites for migratory shorebirds. Australia has 17 sites in the network (Partnership EAAF 2008):

  • Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (1 375 940 ha)
  • Parry Lagoons, Western Australia (36 111 ha)
  • Thomsons Lake, Western Australia (213 ha)
  • Moreton Bay, Queensland (113 314 ha)
  • Hunter Estuary, NSW (2916 ha)
  • Corner Inlet, Victoria (51 500 ha)
  • The Coorong, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert, South Australia (140 500 ha)
  • Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania (2920 ha)
  • Logan Lagoon, Tasmania (2320 ha)
  • Western Port, Victoria (59 297 ha)
  • Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria (16 540 ha)
  • Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Bowling Green Bay, Queensland
  • Shoalwater Bay, Queensland
  • Great Sandy Strait, Queensland
  • Currawinya National Park, Queensland

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2005c). Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/pubs/shorebird-plan-background.pdf.

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2006f). Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/publications/shorebird-plan.html.

Barter, M.A. (2002). Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: Importance, Threats and Conservation Status. Wetlands International Global Series No. 8, International Wader Studies 12. Canberra, ACT: Wetlands International.

Barter, M.A. (2005c). Yellow Sea-driven priorities for Australian shorebird researchers. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003, Canberra, Australia. Sydney, NSW: Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

Barter, M.A., D. Tonkinson, J.Z. Lu, S.Y. Zhu, Y. Kong, T.H. Wang, Z.W. Li & X.M. Meng (1998). Shorebird numbers in the Huang He (Yellow River) Delta during the 1997 northward migration. Stilt. 33:15-26.

Barter, M.A., K. Gosbell, L. Cao & Q. Xu (2005). Northward shorebird migration surveys in 2005 at four new Yellow Sea sites in Jiangsu and Liaoning Provinces. Stilt. 48:13-17.

Davidson, N. & P. Rothwell (1993). Disturbance to waterfowl on estuaries. Wader Study Group Bulletin. 68.

Dening, J. (2005). Roost management in south-East Queensland: building partnerships to replace lost habitat. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003. Page(s) 94-96. Sydney, NSW. Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2007e). Migratory Waterbirds Information Page, Departmental Website. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/migratory/waterbirds/index.html#conservation.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009aj). Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/migratory-shorebirds.html.

Ge, Z.-M., T-H. Wang, X. Zhou, K.-Y. Wang & W.-Y. Shi (2007). Changes in the spatial distribution of migratory shorebirds along the Shanghai shoreline, China, between 1984 and 2004. Emu. 107:19-27.

Harding, S.B., J.R. Wilson & D.W. Geering (2007). Threats to shorebirds and conservation actions. In: Geering, A., L. Agnew & S. Harding, eds. Shorebirds of Australia. Page(s) 197-213. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Melville, D.S. (1997). Threats to waders along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. In: Straw, P., ed. Shorebird conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. Page(s) 15-34. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Ming, M., L. Jianjian, T. Chengjia, S. Pingyue & H. Wei (1998). The contribution of shorebirds to the catches of hunters in the Shanghai area, China, during 1997-1998. Stilt. 33:32-36.

Partnership for the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Partnership EAAF) (2008). East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network: October 2008. [Online]. Available from: http://www.eaaflyway.net/documents/Flyway-Network-Sites-Oct-08.pdf.

Round, P.D. (2006). Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand. Stilt. 50:96-102.

Straw, P. (1992a). Relocation of Shorebirds. A Feasibility Study and Management Options. Sydney, NSW: Unpublished report by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union for the Federal Airports Corporation.

Straw, P. (1999). Habitat remediation - a last resort?. Stilt. 35:66.

Wei, D.L.Z., Y.C. Aik, L.K. Chye, K. Kumar, L.A. Tiah, Y. Chong & C.W. Mun (2006). Shorebird survey of the Malaysian coast November 2004-April 2005. Stilt. 49:7-18.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Philomachus pugnax in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 16:50:51 +1000.