Willow Ptarmigan

Scientific Name
Lagopus lagopus
Conservation Status
Least Concern (LC)

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Wikipedia Article

The Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), Willow Grouse or in the British Isles the Red Grouse, is a bird of the grouse subfamily. It is a sedentary species, breeding in birch and other forests and moorlands in the tundra of Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, in particular the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the state bird of Alaska.
In summer male's plumage is marbled brown, with a reddish hue to the neck and breast, a black tail, and white wings and underparts. It has two inconspicuous wattles above the eyes, which become prominent in the breeding season. The female is similar, but lacks the wattles and has brown feathers strewn all over the belly. In winter, both sexes' plumages become completely white, except for the black tail. They can be distinguished from the Rock Ptarmigan (L. muta) by habitat (L. lagopus is not found above the tree line), larger size and thicker bill; the summer plumage is browner, the winter Willow Ptarmigan's male lacks the black loral stripe. It is a little bigger than the rock ptarmigan. The distinctive British Isles subspecies L. l. scotica (Red Grouse) was once considered a separate true British species but is now classified as a sub-species. This moorland bird is reddish brown all over, except the white feet and is common across the north and west of Great Britain and in localised areas on Ireland. The male's call is a loud go-back go-back.
The Willow Ptarmigan's scientific name, Lagopus lagopus is derived from Ancient Greek lagos () "hare" + pous () "foot", in reference to the bird's feathered feet which allow it to negotiate frozen ground (see also Snowshoe Hare). Depending on the author, some 10-20 subspecies of the Willow Ptarmigan are recognized. Most differ little in appearance, though as noted above, L. l. scoticus is rather distinct. Some commonly-accepted subspecies are: * L. l. lagopus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Scandinavian Willow Ptarmigan * L. l. scoticus (Latham, 1787) – Red Grouse * L. l. alascensis Swarth, 1926 – Alaskan Willow Ptarmigan * L. l. variegatus Salomonsen, 1936 – Trondheimsfjord Willow Ptarmigan Rype 5163.jpg|Adult female in summer plumage, Trollheimen (Norway) Lagopus lagopus Urals.jpg|Adult female in summer plumage, near Saranpaul in the northeast Urals (Beryozovsky District, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia) WillowPtarmigan23.jpg|Adult male L. l. alascensis in autumn plumage, Lake Clark National Park (Alaska, USA) Moorschneehuhn.jpg|Adult female in winter plumage near Troms (Norway) Willow Ptarmigan chicks.jpg|Willow ptarmigan chicks, Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska, USA) Male Willow Ptarmigan.jpg|Adult male in summer plumage, Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska, USA) During the Pleistocene, the species widely occurred in continental Europe. Authors who recognize paleosubspecies have named the Pleistocene Willow Ptarmigan L. l. noaillensis (though the older name medius might be the correct one). These marginally different birds gradually changed from the earlier (Pliocene) Lagopus atavus into the present-day species. Pleistocene Willow Ptarmigan are recorded from diverse sites until the end of the Vistulian glaciation about 10,000 years ago, when the species, by then all but identical from the living birds, retreated northwards like its tundra habitat.
L. lagopus are hardy vegetarian birds, but insects are also taken by the hatchling young. 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 also, in particular in defending them against predators. A small minority of male Willow Ptarmigan are polygynous. Widespread and not uncommon in its remote habitat, the Willow Ptarmigan is classified as a Species of Least Concern by the IUCN. He is migratory year round. The willow ptarmigan, since it lives on the tundra, makes his nest on the ground, and he builds a new nest every year.