Willow Ptarmigan

Jet Eliot

Willow ptarmigan, Alaska in August Willow ptarmigan, Alaska in August

The willow ptarmigan is a short, stocky game bird in the grouse family.  They reside in open tundra and arctic conditions in both the eastern and western hemispheres.

See maps below.

Each year they molt twice. In summer they are mottled brown or gray, in winter they are white.  This gives them camouflage in all seasons.

Denali Alaska, ptarmigan Denali NP, Alaska. Site where we found the ptarmigan.

Ground birds are vulnerable, so their camouflage is a handy natural defense. They can also fly to escape predators (fox, eagles).

The state bird of Alaska, willow ptarmigan are not found elsewhere in the United States; but are found in many of the Canadian provinces, and other parts of the world.

There are only three species of ptarmigan in the world, and Denali is home to all of them:  willow, rock, and white-tailed.

In Great Britain, Lagopus lagopus are referred…

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