Willow Ptarmigan

Lagopus lagopus
Range Map

The Willow Ptarmigan is non migratory. In winter, they attain all white plumage and tough out the cold arctic weather. Called “Willow Grouse” in Europe, this bird is found in arctic or subarctic areas in North America and Eurasia.

Taxonomists recognise 18 subspecies of Willow Ptarmigan from around the globe:

  • L. l. variegata lives on islands off southwestern Norway.
  • L. l. lagopus lives in Scandinavia, Finland, and northern European Russia.
  • L. l. rossica lives in central Russia.
  • L. l. birulai lives on the New Siberian Islands north of Eastern Siberia.
  • L. l. koreni lives in Siberia.
  • L. l. kamtschatkensis lives in Kamchatka and the northern Kuril Islands.
  • L. l. maior lives in southeastern European Russia, northern Kazakhstan and southwestern Siberia.
  • L. l. brevirostris lives in the Altai and Sayan Mountains (Russia).
  • L. l. kozlowae lives in western Mongolia and southern Russia.
  • L. l. sserebrowsky lives in eastern Siberia from Lake Baikal and northeastern Mongolia, east to the Sea of Okhotsk, and northeastern China.
  • L. l. okadai lives on Sakhalin Island (Russia).
  • L. l. muriei lives on the eastern Aleutians and Kodiak Island.
  • L. l. alexandrae lives on the eastern Aleutian Islands.
  • L. l. alascensis lives throughout most of the Alaskan mainland, except the Alaska Peninsula and the southern coast.
  • L. l. leucoptera lives on Arctic islands in northern Canada.
  • L. l. alba lives in northern mainland Canada from the Yukon Territory and central British Columbia, east to the western Hudson Bay.
  • L. l. ungavus lives in Labrador and northern Quebec.
  • L. l. alleni lives in Newfoundland.

In 2005, I drove through a village in Alaska called “Chicken”. I learned the founders wanted to call it “Ptarmigan,” after this bird, but none of the folks in attendance knew how to spell the word. So they named the town after the closest thing they could think of.

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