Since there is usually a lot of snow the only option most of the times is to use snowshoes or skis. Another distinctive feature, its feathered feet, helps this sedentary bird negotiate the frozen ground. Authors who recognize paleosubspecies have named the Pleistocene willow ptarmigan L. l. noaillensis (though the older name medius might be the correct one). Widespread and not uncommon in its remote habitat, the willow ptarmigan is classified as a species of "Least Concern" by the IUCN. A total immersion in the world of the polar bear! [6], The willow ptarmigan has a varied and seasonal diet. Válóczi, Tibor (1999): A Vaskapu-barlang (Bükk-hegység) felső pleisztocén faunájának vizsgálata [Investigation of the Upper-Pleistocene fauna of Vaskapu-Cave (Bükk-mountain)]. The willow ptarmigan (/ˈtɑːrmɪɡən/) (Lagopus lagopus) is a bird in the grouse subfamily Tetraoninae of the pheasant family Phasianidae. The males also congregate in small groups but do not usually travel as far as the females.[4]. It is also known as the willow grouse and in Ireland and Britain, where the subspecies L. l. scotica was previously considered to be a separate species, as the red grouse. The Willow Ptarmigan is the Alaskan state bird. They are assiduous at guarding both nest and mate, particularly early in the incubation period and when the eggs are nearly ready to hatch. When she has chosen a mate and a nesting site, the female lays a clutch of six to ten eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. During this time, the greatest danger may be from conspecifics. Scott Wilson, Kathy Martin, Breeding habitat selection of sympatric White-tailed, Rock and Willow Ptarmigan in the southern Yukon Territory, Canada, Journal of Ornithology, 10.1007/s10336-008-0308-8, 149, 4, (629-637), (2008). The summer plumage is browner and in the winter, the male willow ptarmigan lacks the rock ptarmigan's black stripe between the eyes and bill. The willow ptarmigan is distinguished by its use of camouflage as protection against predators, changing its plumage from light brown in summer to snow white in winter. Willow ptarmigans have a wider range than any other species, and spread much farther south. In the summer the birds are largely brown, with dappled plumage, but in the winter they are white with some black feathers in their tails (British populations do not adopt a winter plumage). In one study it was found that 90% of the buds of the Alaska willow within their reach had been browsed. [17], Male willow ptarmigans are territorial birds. Rock ptarmigan – White phased rock ptarmigan and willow grouse Hunting rock ptarmigan in the northernmost parts of Finland during early season or wintertime is really something different. It has two inconspicuous wattles above the eyes, which become red and prominent in the breeding season. The species has remained little changed from the bird that roamed the tundra during the Pleistocene. Pleistocene willow ptarmigan are recorded from diverse sites until the end of the Vistulian glaciation about 10,000 years ago, when the species, by then all but identical with the living birds, retreated northwards with its tundra habitat. Nevertheless, the chicks face many dangers which range from attacks by foxes or birds of prey, getting separated from the rest of the brood, bad weather and coccidiosis. [17] This will stunt the willows and create a feedback cycle extending through the entire ecosystem. When she has chosen a mate and a nesting site, the female lays a clutch of six to ten eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. [5] The distinctive British Isles subspecies L. l. scoticus (red grouse) was once considered a separate true British species but is now classified as a sub-species. The Willow ptarmigan is the state bird of Alaska since 1955. The chicks eat insects and young plant growth while the adults are completely herbivorous, eating leaves, flowers, buds, seeds and berries during the summer and largely subsisting on the buds and twigs of willow and other dwarf shrubs and trees during the winter. This moorland bird is reddish brown all over, except for its white feet. Both species are essentially resident within their breeding Lagopus medius Woldřich, 1893 [9][10][11][12][13], The willow ptarmigan has a circum-boreal distribution. However, in winters with below average snowfall, the browsing of Ptarmigans will not have such a drastic effect as their feeding will be spread out across a range of lower plant species. He may take over completely if the female dies. Revised COVID-19 Policies: Book With Confidence. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game , the state bird selection was made in 1955 by a group of school children. These marginally different birds are said to have gradually changed from the earlier (Pliocene) Lagopus atavus into the present-day species L. lagopus. Males and females are about the same size, the adult length varying between 35 and 44 centimetres (14 and 17 in) with a wingspan ranging from 60 and 65 centimetres (24 and 26 in). The females and young migrate to lower altitudes and may overwinter 100 miles (160 km) from their breeding grounds in wooded valleys and hilly country. 6 or 7 Days / Oct & Nov / From $6995 (+air). In the summer, the male's plumage is marbled brown, with a reddish hue to the neck and breast, a black tail and white wings and underparts. Willow ptarmigan have thick feathers that cover their nostrils to prevent snow from getting in. In particular, the male defends the young from predators and both he and his mate can dive-bomb intruders or lure attackers away by pretending to have a broken wing. Despite this, in favourable seasons, many juveniles may survive and the population of willow ptarmigan is prone to wide fluctuations in size. It is native to Canada and the United States, China, Mongolia, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain. Our flagship polar bear tour is an expertly guided small-group adventure to see and photograph the world's largest concentration of polar bears on the tundra along Hudson Bay. [4], A small minority of male willow ptarmigan are polygynous but most are monogamous. [17] In the early twenty-first century, there has been an increase in shrub expansion in arctic Alaska that is thought to be greatly affecting the willow ptarmigan's winter diet. The willow ptarmigan is a medium to large ground-dwelling bird and is the most numerous of the three species of ptarmigan. [3][4], The willow ptarmigan can be distinguished from the closely related rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) by its larger size and thicker bill and by the fact that it is not generally found above the tree line while the rock ptarmigan prefers more elevated, barren habitat. [4] By September, families begin to form flocks. and less on Salix spp. It is also believed that the greening of parts of the Arctic is affecting Willow Ptarmigan populations by altering the shape and size of the shrubs they are able to feed on. In the winter, females and sub-adults may move to lower altitudes and seek shelter in valleys or in more densely vegetated areas, but adult males usually remain in the subalpine region. Males arrive in the breeding areas and set up territories in April and May, aggressively defending them against male interlopers.