Rock Ptarmigan

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Rock Ptarmigan

Lagopus muta
  • ORDER: Galliformes
  • FAMILY: Phasianidae
Basic Description

The hardy Rock Ptarmigan nests as far north as there is land in the world. This chunky grouse wears two kinds of camouflage: it’s nearly all-white in the snowy winter and mottled brown in the summer. Male Rock Ptarmigan stay white until they’ve finished courting females, and then intentionally dirty their plumage to hide from predators until they have molted into a safer (but less dashing) brown plumage. Their feathered feet help them to walk on deep snow and to dig snow burrows and tunnels for refuge from severe cold.

More ID Info
image of range map for Rock PtarmiganRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Look for Rock Ptarmigan in rocky, dry areas of tundra, typically at least 7–10 miles away from towns. They are fairly common and, until the June molt, white males stand out against the tundra from a very long way away. The males’ vocalizations also make them an easy bird to find in spring.

Other Names
  • Lagópodo Alpino (Spanish)
  • Lagopède alpin (French)
  • Cool Facts