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White-tailed Ptarmigan Lagopus leucurus


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White-tailed Ptarmigan, winter molting to summer plumage
credit: Richard Giddins/CCSA

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Family: Phasianidae, Pheasants and Grouse view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE In winter, has pure white plumage with black eye and dainty bill. In summer, has barred and marbled brown and yellow-buff upperparts with black feathering on flanks and breast. Underparts are mainly white. ADULT FEMALE In winter is pure white and similar to male. In summer, similar to male, but with less white on underparts. JUVENILE Similar to summer female.

Dimensions Length: 12-13" (30-33 cm)

Habitat Locally common, but numbers fluctuate. Favors rocky mountain slopes and willow scrub above treeline.

Observation Tips A real effort is required to find this species; consider yourself lucky if you succeed.

Range Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Northwest, Western Canada, Alaska, California

Voice Utters a kik kik kik ki-KEEa call.

Discussion Hardy, plump-bodied ptarmigan; the smallest of its kind in North America. White tail is diagnostic at all times (Rock and Willow have black tail feathers). Usually solitary during breeding season, but forms small flocks at other times. Feeds on seeds, shoots, and stems.