Rock Ptarmigan

Lagopus muta




Partridges, Grouse, Turkeys, Old World Quail (Phasianidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff to light brown with brown and black marks

Number of Eggs:

6 - 13

Incubation Days:

20 - 26

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

On ground on tundra, often among rocks.

Nest Material:

Grass, moss, lichens, breast feathers


Northern birds migrate



Rock Ptarmigan: Small grouse with black, brown, and buff mottled upperparts, white underparts with variable dark mottling, and white wings. Head shows dark eyestripe and red combs over eyes. Female is mottled brown, black, and buff overall, lacks eye combs, and has white wings. Winter male is all white with black-edged tail and dark eyestripe, and reduced red combs; winter female resembles winter male but lacks eyestripe and combs. Juvenile resembles breeding female but shows white only on tips of wings.

Range and Habitat

Rock Ptarmigan: Found in alpine and arctic tundra regions of Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, Finland, Greenland, and Alaska. Winter habitat is usually brushy slopes near the timberline. Males tend to remain in alpine-like habitats, while females seek more cover. Spring and summer habitat is more open, with males choosing territory sparsely covered in stunted brush and with many rocky outlooks.

Breeding and Nesting

Rock Ptarmigan: Monogamous and solitary. Both sexes create scape nest in depression often near boulder. Female lines nest with moss, lichens, grass, and breast feathers. Six to thirteen brown and black marked, buff to light brown eggs are laid. Female incubates eggs for 20 to 26 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Rock Ptarmigan: Pecks and tears at vegetation. Consumes leaves, catkins, seeds, flowers, and buds of a wide variety of Arctic plants. Chicks feed on more berries and insect larvae than adults.


Rock Ptarmigan: Low croaking clucks and rattles. Male courtship display call a low "ah AAH ah AAAAH a a a a."

Similar Species

Rock Ptarmigan: Willow Ptarmigan is larger and has rust-brown plumage. White-tailed Ptarmigan is smaller and has a white tail.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The upper front part of a bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X