White-tailed Ptarmigan Life History


Habitat TundraAlpine areas at or above tree line. Rocky areas, krummholz, snowfields, meadows.Back to top


Food PlantsBuds, stems, and seeds; in summer, also insects, leaves, fruits, and flowers.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

A scrape on the ground, with some vegetation pulled by the female around her body to form a rim.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:2-8 eggs
Egg Description:Light cinnamon, showing dark spots toward the time of hatching.
Condition at Hatching:Completely covered with dense down, eyes open. Leave nest within six to 12 hours after the last egg hatches.
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Behavior Ground ForagerMale bows and struts before female with combs flared and tail fanned out. Walks on ground, nipping at vegetation. Consumes grit to aid in processing of plant matter.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernWhite-tailed Ptarmigan is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million birds, with 28% living in the U.S., and 73% in Canada. The species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Ptarmigans have experienced some disturbances, including overgrazing by livestock and development of ski areas, that may affect distribution locally. Management of hunting bag limits, seasonal closure and rerouting of roads, and limitations on livestock grazing help to stabilize White-tailed Ptarmigan populations.Back to top


Martin, K., Leslie A. Robb, Scott Wilson and Clait E. Braun. (2015). White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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