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Rock Ptarmigan


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A true bird of the tundra, the Rock Ptarmigan changes its coloring between seasons to blend in with its surroundings. It is pure white in the snow-covered winter, but mottled dark and white when the snows melt.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
12.6–15.7 in
32–40 cm
15.5–22.6 oz
440–640 g
Other Names
  • Ptarmigan (British)
  • Lagopède des rochers (French)
  • (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The male Rock Ptarmigan takes longer than the female to change from its white winter plumage into the brown summer garb. During courtship the male is a conspicuous white patch on the brown tundra, visible for kilometers away. The female sitting on the eggs, however, is so well camouflaged that she is difficult to find from less than 2 meters (6 feet) away.



Open tundra, barren and rocky slopes in Arctic and alpine areas; in winter, some movement to thickets and forest edge.




Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–13 eggs
Condition at Hatching
Completely covered with dense down, eyes open. Leave nest within six to 12 hours after the last egg hatches.
Nest Placement



Ground Forager


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Rock Ptarmigan are common and widespread. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.


  • Holder, K. and R. Montgomerie. 1993. Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus). In The Birds of North America, No. 51 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, D.C.: The American Ornithologists’ Union.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2016. The State of North America’s Birds 2016. Environment and Climate Change Canada: Ottawa, Ontario.

Range Map Help

Rock Ptarmigan Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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