Ptarmigan

Scientific name: Lagopus muta

Did you know: The Ptarmigan, a master of camouflage, changes its plumage from mottled brown in summer to pure white in winter, blending seamlessly with its surroundings!

What Do Ptarmigans Look Like? (how to identify them)

Ptarmigans are unique game birds, slightly larger than Grey Partridges

In summer, they sport a mix of grey, brown, and black on top, with white underparts. Winter transforms them into almost entirely white birds, except for their distinctively black tail and eye-patch.

Differences Between Male And Female Ptarmigans

Males and females are similar in appearance, though males typically have more pronounced combs (the red ‘eyebrows’) and are slightly larger, especially noticeable during the breeding season.

What Do Ptarmigans Eat?

These birds have a varied diet consisting of shoots, leaves, leaf buds, berries, and insects. Their diet changes with the seasons, focusing more on plant material during winter.

Where Do Ptarmigans Live? (inc. migration info)

Ptarmigans are hardy residents of the highest mountains in the Scottish Highlands, thriving in the Arctic-like landscapes. These birds are generally sedentary, rarely moving far from their breeding sites, but may descend to forest edges in severe cold.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Ptarmigans)

The Ptarmigan is known for its simple, croaking song, especially during the mating season. Males emit a soft, guttural sound, whereas females have a more quacking tone, used mainly when alarmed or disturbed.

Fun Ptarmigan Facts (kid friendly)

  • Ptarmigans are the only birds in the UK to completely change their plumage colour depending on the season.
  • They have feathered feet, acting like natural snowshoes in winter.
  • Ptarmigans can camouflage so well, they sometimes remain unnoticed even when approached closely.
  • These birds are uniquely adapted to life in cold environments, surviving harsh Arctic-like conditions.
  • Ptarmigans are known for their ‘mute’ song, which is more of a soft croak than a typical bird song.
  • They are experts at living in high-altitude, rugged terrains.
  • Ptarmigans are part of the grouse family, but they’re quite different from their woodland relatives.
  • In Scotland, where they are most commonly found, Ptarmigans are sometimes referred to as the ‘mountain chicken’ due to their habitat.
  • During courtship, males perform an aerial display, flying up before gliding down in a show of prowess.
  • Despite their ability to change colour, Ptarmigans’ black eye-patch and tail remain constant throughout the year.

Ptarmigan Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Ptarmigan

Diet: Shoots, leaves, leaf buds, berries and insects.
Bird Family: Grouse
Length: 34-36cm
Wingspan: 54-60cm
Weight: 400-600g
Scientific Name: Lagopus muta

The Ptarmigan Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December