Willow Ptarmigan

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Willow Ptarmigan

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

A master of camouflage, the Willow Ptarmigan is snowy white in winter and an intricate mix of reds and browns in summer. This rotund grouse of subarctic tundra lives year-round in areas where most bird species can survive only during the warmer months. Ptarmigan are well suited to brutally cold winters, using heavily feathered feet to walk over deep snow, and excavating snow burrows in which they take shelter from the elements. Perhaps because their camouflage is so good, wild ptarmigan often act tame and unafraid of people.

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

Find This Bird

Willow Ptarmigan are usually easiest to find in spring, when the birds (especially males) perch in bushes and on fence posts or walk almost defiantly along roads, tolerating close approach. They are harder to find in summer, when their camouflage makes them hard to pick out against the tundra. But because they are relatively common, careful scanning through appropriate habitat should turn up a few. In winter, look for flocks where patches of willow protrude above the snow—but remember that they can be hidden inside snow burrows.

Other Names
  • Lagópodo Común (Spanish)
  • Lagopède des saules (French)
  • Cool Facts