Willow Ptarmigan


Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan

This is what a male Willow Ptarmigan looks like in the spring. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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The Willow Ptarmigan is a medium sized bird. It is a member of the grouse family. In Europe, the Willow Ptarmigan is called Willow Grouse. It is a sedentary species, breeding in birch and other forests and tundra across northern Eurasia, and in Alaska and northern Canada. It is the state bird of Alaska.

What do Willow Ptarmigan look like?

The spring male has a brown head and shoulders with a reddish neck and white wings and body. The female is similar, but lacks the pure white belly. In winter, both males and females become completely white. They inhabit areas with trees while another type of Ptarmigan–the Winter Ptarmigan live above the tree line.

What do Willow Ptarmigan sound like?

The male’s call is a loud “go-back go-back”.

What do Willow Ptarmigan eat?

The Ptarmigan eat primarily birch and willow buds and catkins when available. It will also take various seeds, leaves, flowers and berries of other plant species. Insects are taken by the developing young.

The male Willow Ptarmigan is unique in its nesting behavior. In all other species of grouse, only the female takes responsibility for the young. However, the male Willow Ptarmigan often takes responsibility of the young by staunchly defending his territory and his young. Males have even been documented to have attacked a Grizzly Bear and will attack humans who distract their young.

Additional Images:

Willow Ptarmigan

Willow ptarmigan standing in short vegetation on Kodiak Island, Alaska U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, David Menke
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