White-Tailed Ptarmigan 1994

Yosemite Wilderness, Dorothy Lake 1994

Non-native experimental population released 1971-72 in and around Eagle Peak and Twin Lakes

The smallest grouse in North America, the White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabitsalpine regions from Alaska to New Mexico. It has numerous adaptations to its severe habitat, including feathered toes, highly cryptic plumage, and an energy-conserving daily regime.

Adult Description

  • Small grouse; medium to large chicken-like bird.
  • Thick bodied.
  • Tail moderately short, rounded.
  • Completely white in winter.
  • Barred grayish brown in summer.
  • Wings and tail white.

Male Description
Breeding male mostly grayish-brown, with broad band of black markings across chest. Eye combs are red. Nonbreeding male is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Female Description
Breeding female shows finely barred plumage, with yellowish tint contrasting with black or dark brown. Nonbreeding female is completely white with black eyes and bill.

Cool Facts

  • The White-tailed Ptarmigan leads a very sedentary lifestyle in winter, conserving precious energy by avoiding flight and often roosting in snow banks.
  • In winter, the White-tailed Ptarmigan defecates an average of 49 times overnight.
  • Warm weather may stress the White-tailed Ptarmigan. It can be seen bathing in snow when the temperature is higher than 21° C (70° F).


White-tailed Ptarmigan 1994

Range Map

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