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PTARMIGAN - Lagopus mutus

 

I first saw this stunning bird in December 2011.  I have been in awe of these fascinating, beautiful birds ever since. The environment they choose to inhabit is one of the most hostile in the UK.  

In December their plumage changes to pure white with the exception of the underside of their tails, the male retains a black mark next to the eye and has a bright red wattle which distinguishes him from the female.  Their foot feathers act as both insulation and snowshoes in winter, spreading the bird’s weight as it walks.

 

 

In spring they show signs of growing back their summer plumage which allows them to blend in better to their changing environment.

In summer they retain white feathers on their underbelly but are superbly camouflaged against a background of lichen-flecked rocks to passing birds of prey.   

It’s normally a ptarmigan’s call that alerts you to their presence. Listen for their stony, rasping calls. Scottish ptarmigan live high in the mountains from the Cairngorms to Ben Nevis and in Wester Ross being particular hotspots.