Sunday, May 30, 2010


Let's start off Alaska Week (which is now starting to look like Alaska Week-and-a-half based on all the suggestions I've been getting) with a Bird! The lovely bird that is one of our Alaska Week logo mascots- the Ptarmigan. Now, there are actually three species of Ptarmigan that share the genus Lagopus, which in turn shares its taxonomic family with grouses. The three species are the Willow Grouse (also known as the Willow Ptarmigan), the Rock Ptarmigan (which is often just called Ptarmigan), and the White-Tail Ptarmigan, which thankfully only as one common name. From here on out here I'm just going to refer to them as Willow, Rock and White-Tail.

All three species inhabit Alaska, with the Willow found pretty much everywhere, the Rock living everywhere but the flat tundras near the Western and Northern coats, and the White-Tail inhabiting the rocky uplands. When all three species live in a close area, the Willows live at the lowest altitudes, the Ricks take the middle slopes, and the White-Tails inhabit the higher ridges.

They like to hide around rocks and bushes, and though they are able to fly, they prefer to walk around. Their nests are on the ground, and they lay eggs in clutches of 4-7 in the summer. In Autumn and Winter they become nomadic, moving from place to place for shelter. In spring massive flocks can be found moving back to their breeding grounds.
Ptarmigan have two different colorations depending on the time of year. In winter they are entirely white, and in summer they are brown with white flecks. These colors help to camouflage them with their ground surroundings. Unfortunately their coloration is not uncommon in the rest of the arctic world, as some of their major predators, including owls and foxes, also change color seasonally. This helps them to hide from their prey.

The Willow Ptarmigan is the State Bird of Alaska!

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