any of several grouses of the genus Lagopus, of mountainous and cold northern regions, having feathered feet.[1590-1600; pseudo-Gk sp. of ScotGael tarmarchan, akin to Ir tarmanach]
* * *Ptarmigan plumage changes from white in winter to gray or brown, with barring, in spring and summer. The toes are covered with stiff feathers above and below. The common ptarmigan (L. mutus) occurs throughout the British Isles, Europe, and North America, where it is called rock ptarmigan. Ptarmigans survive winter in the Arctic and on mountaintops by browsing shrubs and scratching up lichens and leaves; they burrow in snow to sleep. Males begin group displays in early spring and then separate and display singly in adjoining territories.
* * *▪ birdany of three or four species of partridgelike grouse of cold regions, belonging to the genus Lagopus of the grouse family, Tetraonidae. They undergo seasonal changes of plumage, from white against winter snowfields to gray or brown, with barring, in spring and summer against tundra vegetation. Ptarmigan differ from other members of the grouse family in having the toes covered with stiff feathers above and below.The common ptarmigan (L. mutus) ranges in the British Isles, Europe, and North America, where it is called rock ptarmigan. Also distributed circumpolarly is the willow ptarmigan, or willow grouse (L. lagopus; see photograph—>), a more northerly bird of lowlands. On Rocky Mountain tundra south to New Mexico is the white-tailed ptarmigan (L. leucurus; see photograph—>).Ptarmigan survive winter in the Arctic and mountain-top fastnesses by browsing shrubs and scratching up lichens and leaves; they burrow in snow to sleep. Males, which have harsh cackling calls, begin to display socially in early spring and then separate and display singly in adjoining territories.The name snow partridge, given in many localities to ptarmigan, is best reserved for a ptarmigan-like Asian partridge (see partridge).
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