Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus


enlarge +

Rock Ptarmigan, adult male, breeding plumage
credit: Michael Clarke/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images

1 article:

Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Phasianidae, Pheasants and Grouse view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Pure white in winter, except for dark eye, lores, and bill; upper tail coverts often conceal black tail feathers. In spring, acquires marbled grayish buff upperparts; extent of white on back decreases gradually. Belly and legs remain white and note striking red wattle. ADULT FEMALE In winter is mainly white; only eye, bill, and tail are black. In spring and summer, has barred yellowish buff and gray upperparts; extent of white on back diminishes with time. JUVENILE Similar to summer female.

Dimensions Length: 13-14" (33-36 cm)

Habitat Common on rocky tundra but range in east is limited to high Arctic. Mostly sedentary, but some limited altitudinal and southerly movement in winter.

Observation Tips Easiest to see when unseasonal winter thaw or summer snowfall makes camouflage inappropriate.

Range Eastern Canada, Alaska, Western Canada

Voice Utters a rattling kur-kurrrr call.

Discussion Hardy northern grouse. Feeds unobtrusively among rocks and seasonal plumage variation provides good camouflage at all times of the year. In flight, always shows striking white wings and prominent black tail feathers. Forms small flocks outside breeding season. Sexes are separable.