Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)
The Rock Ptarmigan is the smallest grouse found in the UK. They breed and live in Arctic or sub Arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia. In the UK these conditions only exist in our highest mountains. Particularly in the highest mountains of Scotland. As a result these are the only places where they can be found in the UK. Here they eke out a living uncovering vegetation buried in the winter snow.
These areas are typically over 2000ft where the climate creates sub Arctic conditions preferred by these birds. Such localised conditions mean Ptarmigans seldom move far from their breeding ground.
Previously found in other areas within the UK. For example the Scottish southern Uplands and Lake District in England. However Ptarmigan became extinct from these areas in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Summer and winter the Ptarmigan is difficult to see because of it’s superb camouflage.
The mottled brown, black and grey summer plumage provide keeps the bird hidden amongst the rocks and heather . While in the winter when the snow begins to fall the plumage turns pure white. This changing plumage and habitat gives rise to alternate names. These names include White grouse and Snow Chicken.