The Ruddy Ground-Dove is a small dove, barely larger than a sparrow (total length 16.5-18 cm; mass 40- 56.5 g). Males are distinguished from sympatric species of ground-doves by the bright ruddy plumage. Females are paler, tending more towards brown than ruddy tones, and are distinguished from females of similar species by the black spots on the wings, monochromatic undertail coverts, and lack of scaling. Juveniles are similar to females but with scaling. The song is a low-pitched, hollow-sounding, bisyllabic coo. They prefer wet and open habitats for finding seeds on the ground. Often seen foraging with other individuals of the same species.
Males, with their bright ruddy plumage, are distinctive. No other ground-dove has black underwing-coverts (Stiles and Skutch 1989). The female resembles the Plain-breasted Ground-Dove (C. minuta) but is larger, more rufescent, and has even-colored undertail coverts as opposed to the mottled undertail coverts of C. minuta (Slud 1964). The female can also be distinguished from female Blue Ground-Dove (C. pretiosa) by its smaller size and black spots on the wings. The female Common Ground-Dove (C. passerina) is smaller, lacks the rufous coloring of Ruddy Ground-Dove, and has a speckled throat (Kenefick et al. 2007). Call is very similar to and probably indistinguishable from that of Ecuadorian Ground-Dove (C. buckleyi; Schulenberg et al. 2007).
Ground-doves have short legs, a short neck, a small head, and an upright posture when standing. Adult males have a blue-gray crown and nape with a white to buff throat. Males are readily identified by their dark rufous upperparts, black spots on the wings, and red underparts. The tail is slightly browner than the red back and the outer tail feathers tipped with black. The underwing coverts are black. Females are paler overall with more gray and brown tones. Females are gray to brown above and pale grayish below. Rufous coloring is most pronounced on rump and tail. Undertail coverts vary from white to rufous. Juveniles are similar to the female but have a scaly appearance (Skutch 1956, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Kenefick et al. 2007, Schulenberg et al. 2007).
Molt is documented throughout the year and does not appear to be seasonally determined (Cintra 1988).
Ruddy Ground-Doves have a red iris. The bill varies from white with a dark tip to pink to black. The tarsi and toes are pale to bright pink (Skutch 1956, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Kenefick et al. 2007, Schulenberg et al. 2007). They also have a thin white orbital ring and yellowish cere (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Males are 15-18 cm in length and weigh 40-56.5 g. Females are slightly smaller and are 14-18 cm in length and weigh 35-51 g (Baptista et al. 1997). However, weight fluctuates annually with significantly higher weights in breeding individuals than in non-breeding individuals (Cintra 1988).