Thursday, October 25, 2012

White-tailed Ptarmigan

The smallest North American grouse is the White-tailed Ptarmigan. This bird inhabits alpine areas at or above treeline from western Alaska and western Canada south through Rocky Mountain peaks to Colorado and New Mexico. Ptarmigans exhibit a host of cold-weather adaptations. They are white in the winter and brown in the summer, thereby matching the ground color. This May bird in Colorado is blotchy, going into its brown summer plumage. Ptarmigan flocks roost in snowbanks, which remain around freezing even when the weather outside is far colder. Ptarmigan are also famous for their feathered, snowshoe-like toes. When predators (or birders) approach, rather than flying, ptarmigan tend to crouch, walk away or even hide under rocks. I only found this ptarmigan by hearing it and knowing the bird must be nearby.

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