Home » Birds » Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan

Also Goes By: Snow Grouse, Willow Grouse, Arctic Grouse

As Alaska’s state bird, the Willow Ptarmigan can be found throughout the state’s high altitude, treeless country. In addition, they occupy a broad range of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. This bird is distinct from the Rock Ptarmigan because of its thicker bill and larger size. Moreover, the Willow Ptarmigan is the only grouse that involves the male birds in parental care. In fact, a pair of these birds will stick together through out the breeding season, only separating after their chicks have grown to independence. In summer, the Willow Ptarmigan is more brownish in color. They will take on a marbled brown plumage with a black tail and white wings and belly.

As their name implies, these birds feed on willow buds and twigs as a staple of their diet. However, they will also eat a little birch and incorporate other food sources during the summer months. They can be found in the open tundra, preferring areas heavily covered with moss, grass, shrubs and herbs. 

These birds are wonderful to hunt with a canine companion. 

Photo Courtesy of Tim Bowman, USFW.
Willow Ptarmigan

Where to Hunt Willow Ptarmigan


Setter and Hunter

Highlights From the 2012 Bird Hunting Season

It seems like eons ago when we were climbing to 12,000 feet in the Ruby Mountains in pursuit of Snowcock. But it was just a short six months since we set off to start the 2012 bird hunting season. Now that wild bird hunting in the lower 48 has ended I sit here reflecting on … Read more

Brian Koch
Lab with Ptarmigan

Whitetailed Demons

Something is wrong with me. Any other sane bird hunter would have packed up and moved to the interior where the bird numbers and density are greater. But I’m entrenched in the Kenai and I can’t get away from it. I’ve shot a Whitetailed Ptarmigan already. I’ve seen where they live. I know their confounding … Read more

Brian Koch
Public Land Ptarmigan

To the Edge with Friends and Dogs

We all have limits. But that edge is never static. It’s a river that rages perilously close or meanders docile and aimless in the distance. Most people are perfectly comfortable keeping a healthy distance—there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But there is something about that torrent that is captivating and revealing. What we see … Read more

Brian Koch