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White-tailed Ptarmigan - Lagopus leucura



 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Galliformes
 Family: Phasianidae
 Genus:  Lagopus 
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


White-tailed PtarmiganThe white-tailed ptarmigan is a small, pear-shaped grouse. It is a foot in length and is the smallest of the ptarmigans and the only ptarmigan with an all white tail. It is a mottled grayish-brown in summer and white in winter. It has white wings and a short, white tail. It has feathers on its legs and a small bill. Males and females look alike in winter. In breeding season, the male has a red comb over his eyes. The female has a smaller comb over her eyes.


mapThe white-tailed ptarmigan is found from southeastern Alaska and Yukon to northern Washington and Montana. It is also found in some parts of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico. It has been introduced to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and the Uinta Mountains in Utah.


White-tailed PtarmiganThe white-tailed ptarmigan lives in alpine meadows and rocky areas at or above the tree line.





A large part of the white-tailed ptarmigan's diet is made up of the buds and leaves of willows. It also eats berries, insects, leaves, and flowers. It eats grit to help digest its food.

Life Cycle

White-tailed PtarmiganThe male white-tailed ptarmigan fans out his tail and struts and bobs to attract a female. He aggressively protects his territory by running low to the ground, flaring out his eye combs, and calling out with a harsh cackle. The female lays 2-8 eggs in scrape on the ground. The eggs incubate for 20-24 days. The chicks are precocial and leave the nest and feed themselves a few hours after hatching .


The white-tailed ptarmigan conserves energy in winter by walking instead of flying. It also roosts in snow banks to stay warm.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Andrew Spencer cc logo