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White-tailed Ptarmigan

Lagopus leucura ORDER: GALLIFORMES FAMILY: PHASIANIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The smallest grouse in North America, the White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabits alpine regions from Alaska to New Mexico. It has numerous adaptations to its severe habitat, including feathered toes, highly cryptic plumage, and an energy-conserving daily regime.

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Appearance

Gamebirds
Gamebirds
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Small grouse; medium to large chicken-like bird.
  • Thick bodied.
  • Tail moderately short, rounded.
  • Completely white in winter.
  • Barred grayish brown in summer.
  • Wings and tail white.

Male Description

Breeding male mostly grayish-brown, with broad band of black markings across chest. Eye combs are red. Nonbreeding male is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Female Description

Breeding female shows finely barred plumage, with yellowish tint contrasting with black or dark brown. Nonbreeding female is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Immature Description

Similar to adult.

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Similar Species

  • The larger Willow and Rock ptarmigans also are white in winter, but with black outer tail feathers (can be difficult to see).