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Ptarmigan

The Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) is a small (31-35 cm) bird in the grouse family. It is an inactive species, breeding across subartic Eurasia on rocky mountainsides and tundra. There are isolated populations in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the mountains of Scotland.

It also occurs in Alaska, and northern Canada, where it is called the Rock Ptarmigan, or colloquially as Snow Chicken. This is the official bird for the territory of Nunavut, Canada.

The Eurasian spring male has greyish upperparts with white wings and underparts. North American birds are more variable, being generally browner, but with Aleutian birds almost black. The North American females are brown. In winter, both sexes become completely white. They can be distinguished from the winter Willow Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan in North America) by habitat, smaller size, more delicate bill and, in the winter male, black between the eye and bill.

The male’s song is a loud croaking.

These are hardy vegetarian birds, but insects are also taken by the developing young.

The female takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.

Ptarmigan


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