Rock ptarmigan Facts

Rock ptarmigan Facts
Rock ptarmigan is chicken-like bird that belongs to the grouse family. It can be found in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia (in the areas near the Arctic circle). Rock ptarmigan inhabits open tundra, edges of the forests and rocky slopes. Rock ptarmigans are popular game birds in Labrador and Newfoundland and they represent important source of food for the locals in the Iceland. Thanks to strictly defined hunting season, rock ptarmigans are still numerous and widespread in the wild.
Interesting Rock ptarmigan Facts:
Rock ptarmigan can reach 12 to 16 inches in length and 15.5 to 22.6 ounces of weight.
Females are covered with brown-grayish plumage. Males have white bellies and grey back. They also have ornamental red comb above the eyes that can be exposed or retracted. Both genders change the color of the plumage into white during the winter.
Rock ptarmigan has short, dark bill, thick body and short, square-shaped tail.
Legs and feet of rock ptarmigan are covered with feathers to facilitate walking on the snow and prevent loss of body heat during the winter. Black lines around eyes function like sunglasses which decrease solar radiation.
Rock ptarmigan spends most of its time on the ground. It occasionally flies short distances to find food.
Diet of rock ptarmigan is based on leaves, buds, berries, twigs and flowers. Insects are the major source of food for the young birds.
Natural enemies of rock ptarmigans are arctic foxes, ermines, arctic skuas, glaucous gulls, golden eagles and snowy owls.
Mating season of rock ptarmigan takes place during the spring. Males postpone molting of white feathers until the end of the mating season so that females can quick identify them in the brown surroundings.
Males become territorial during the breeding season. They leap into the air, flap their wings and produce loud croaking calls to announce occupation of a territory.
Males expose red comb above eyes, spread their tails and circle around females during the courtship.
Unlike males, females are nearly invisible during the mating season. They can be detected only from a distance of 6 feet thanks to well camouflaged plumage.
Female lays 3 to 13 eggs in the nest on the ground. Incubation of eggs lasts 3 weeks. Male does not take part in the incubation of the eggs and rearing of chicks.
Chicks are born covered with dense feathers. They are ready to leave the nest 6 to 12 hours after hatching.
Rock ptarmigans develop adult plumage after 10 to 12 days. Soon afterwards, they learn to fly. Rock ptarmigans are ready for the independent life at the age of 3 months. They start to reproduce couple of months later (at the age of 6 months).
Rock ptarmigans can survive 3 to 4 years in the wild.

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