Rock Ptarmigan

Lagopus muta

Description 4

The rock ptarmigan is 34–36 centimetres (13–14 in) long (tail 8 cm (3.1 in)) with a wing-span of 54–60 centimetres (21–24 in). It is slighter smaller than the willow ptarmigan by about 10%. The male's "song" is a loud croaking.

The rock ptarmigan is seasonally camouflaged; its feathersmoult from white in winter to brown in spring or summer. The breeding male has greyish upper parts with white wings and under parts. In winter, its plumage becomes completely white except for the black tail. It can be distinguished from the winter willow ptarmigan (willow ptarmigan in North America) by habitat—the rock ptarmigan prefers higher elevations and more barren habitat; it is also smaller with a more delicate bill.

Biology 5

Ptarmigans feed on berries, shoots, leaves and seeds (6). When the ground is covered in snow they seek out areas where the wind has cleared the ground (4). During autumn, male birds become territorial, and engage in song flights, producing a belching croak. Hens pair with males at this time, but they tend to live in flocks through the autumn and early winter as well as when there has been a snow fall (4). Roosting occurs on the ground in flocks during winter, and if it has snowed, individuals huddle in a depression scraped in the snow (4).  Nesting also takes place on the ground, typically next to a large rock for shelter. Females incubate 7-10 eggs for around 21 days, and the chicks can leave the nest after just one day. The chicks feed on invertebrates and reach independence after 10 to 12 weeks (5).

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) jafro77, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  2. (c) Álfheiður Magnúsdóttir, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) Kari Pihlaviita, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  4. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  5. (c) Wildscreen, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

More Info

Range Map

iNatCA Map

Animal Bird
Color brown, red, white
Bird Phasianidae (ptarmigans)