For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science
360-902-2515
wildthing@dfw.wa.gov

Fish Science
360-902-2700
fishpgm@dfw.wa.gov

Habitat Science
360-902-2534
habitatprogram@dfw.wa.gov

 
 

Lead Scientist: Michael A. Schroeder

Ecoregions: Cascades, North Cascades

Ecological Systems: North Pacific Avalanche Chute Shrubland, North Pacific Dry and Mesic Alpine Dwarf-Shrubland - Fell-Field and Meadow, Rocky Mountain Alpine Dwarf Shrubland, Rocky Mountain Alpine Fell-Field, Rocky Mountain Alpine Turf, North American Glacier and Ice Field, North Pacific Alpine and Subalpine Bedrock and Scree, Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine Woodland and Parkland

 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  White-tailed ptarmigan are found in alpine tundra in Washington. This is a male ptarmigan in summer plumage; photo taken on Armstrong Peak in the Pasayten Wilderness.
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  White-tailed ptarmigan are solid white in the winter. This bird has not completed its molt and has a few non-white feathers on the neck and head; note the color bands on the legs. Photo taken on Chopaka Mountain in the Okanogan National Forest.
 
Click on photo to enlarge
Click on photo to enlarge
  View of white-tailed ptarmigan habitat on Armstrong Mountain in the Pasayten Wilderness, Washington.

Grouse Ecology

White-tailed Ptarmigan Ecology

White-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) live in alpine habitats in western North America. Two of the five recognized subspecies are found in Washington, primarily in the Cascades. Because ptarmigan are year-round residents on naturally isolated mountains, there is interest in range-wide genetic and phenotypic variation of this species. There is also concern that climate change could reduce and further isolate their occupied habitat.

Ptarmigan live year-round at the highest elevations of all the grouse species. They are particularly well adapted to harsh environments that are cold, snowy, and windy.  In winter, birds are completely white with extensively feathered feet that act as ‘snowshoes’. The white-tailed ptarmigan is the only species of grouse in Washington that is monogamous. Although they are considered a game bird, there is no season.

Current Research

Publications

Other Links and Resources

Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge
The approximate distribution of white-tailed ptarmigan in North America (Schroeder 2004).
   
Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge

The approximate distribution of white-tailed ptarmigan in Washington (Schroeder 2005).

 
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Click on map to enlarge

The image shows the distribution of confirmed observations of white-tailed ptarmigan in Washington relative to the mountainous areas (glaciated peaks). The outlined area is Okanogan County.


 

All photos unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Michael A. Schroeder