Willow Ptarmigan Is The Official State Bird Of Alaska From 1955. The willow ptarmigan was designated as the official state bird of Alaska in 1955. There are three kinds of ptarmigan are found in Alaska. The willow ptarmigan and rock ptarmigan which are also found in Scandinavia, Russia, and white-tailed ptarmigan. Alaska State Bird Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) are found nearly everywhere in Alaska’s high, treeless country.
National Bird Of Alaska occupies a broad range throughout Canada, Scandinavia, Finland, and Russia. The famous red grouse of Scotland is a race of the State Bird Of Alaska willow ptarmigan. Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) also live in Canada, Scandinavia, Scotland, and northern Eurasia. State Bird Of Alaska Ptarmigan look just like small grouse, weighing from 10 1/2 ounces to 1 1/2 pounds except that their toes are feathered, their wings are white all year, and they have pure white body plumage in winter.
When snow covers the ground, willow ptarmigan eat willow buds, willow twigs, and a little birch. Rock ptarmigan nip off birch catkins, birch buds, and a little willow. White-tails mix buds and catkins of willow, birch, and alder in varying amounts. This diet lasts until well along in the courtship period of spring, giving way as the snow melts to a blend of insects, overwintered berries, new leaves, and flowers.
Fast Facts About Willow Ptarmigan:
Weight: 570 g (about 1.3 pounds)
Wingspan: 61 cm (20–22 inches)
Alpine and arctic tundra throughout Alaska
Buds, twigs, and catkins of willows, berries
Hooded crows, ravens, magpies, red foxes, pine martens, mink, short-tailed weasels, least weasels, gulls, northern harriers, golden eagles, bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons, northern goshawks, snowy owls, wolverine, wolves, Arctic foxes, lynx, and polar bears.
Breed annually in the spring, females lay six to 10 eggs which hatch after about three weeks. In spring and summer, female willow ptarmigan (above) are brownish with yellowish barring on their underparts a coloration that helps camouflage them from predators once the snow has melted from their high elevation range. As in the title page photo for this article, male Alaska State Bird willow ptarmigan change from winter white to cryptic summer plumage more slowly than females do. In spring and early summer their handsome reddish brown head, neck, and chest feathers contrast strikingly with the white winter plumage on the rest of their bodies.