Willow Ptarmigan - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Willow Ptarmigan - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Willow Ptarmigan - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Willow Ptarmigan - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image  
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Willow Ptarmigan
Lagopus lagopus

Grouse-like Birds
Grouse Family (Phasianidae)

Size: Length: 33-36 cm

Description: In summer, the willow ptarmigan is mottled brown with a white eye-ring and an orange-red comb. The mottled plumage is interrupted by white patches on the wings, back and underside, making an irregular pattern of brown and white patches. The legs are white and the feet heavily feathered. The tail is pure white, with a black outer border. Females lack the orange-red comb and may show some dark banding across the breast.

In winter, they gradually lose their brown summer coat and turn snow-white in colour. Their entire plumage turns white, with the exception of the outer margin of their tail (which is black). This black tail band, along with their black eye and bill stand out sharply against the white background.

Similar Species: The white-tailed ptarmigan is similar to the willow ptarmigan, but lacks the black outer margin to its tail both summer and winter.

Range: Willow ptarmigan are only found in the northern Canadian Rockies, from the northern section of Jasper National Park and north to the Kakwa region. For most visitors to the Rockies, they will only encounter the white-tailed ptarmigan.

Habitat: They prefer tundra-like landscapes of the northern tundra and the high mountains. In the northern Rockies, look for them in willow-rich meadows above or near timberline.

Diet: The feed on buds, leaves, flowers and seeds, particularly those of willows.

Nesting: The rough nest is built in a shallow depression lined with leaves. The female lays 6-11 (maximum 17) heavily blotched eggs. She will incubate them for 20-26 days, after which the precocial nestlings hatch. They leave the nest immediately, and can fly within two weeks of hatching. They stay together until autumn. They may winter with other family groups.

Related Links:

Hinterland Who's Who - Ptarmigan

Search for recent Willow Ptarmigan sightings

Hire an expert guide to help you locate Willow Ptarmigan

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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