U.S. State Bird of Alaska -
Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan

The Willow Ptarmigan is a small grouse of the far North that lives among willows and on open tundra and muskeg.

The plumage is brown in summer, but changes to white in winter so the bird can hide on the snow in the winter and among the vegetation in the summer.

The Willow Ptarmigan is common in much of Alaska.

  • Official Alaska State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan
  • American Ornithologists' Union Common Name: Willow Ptarmigan
  • Other Names: Alaska ptarmigan, Arctic grouse, white grouse, willow grouse and willow partridge.
  • Family: Phasianidae, Partridges, Grouse, Turkeys
  • Scientific name: Lagopus lagopus
  • Length: 15" (38cm)
  • Voice: Male in display gives comical, nasal barking calls in series goBEK goBEK, poDAYdo poDAYdo... and a smoothly accelerating laugh. Females gives barking dyow; both sexes give clucking notes.
  • Diet: Vegetation, seeds, berries, insects; leaves, flower buds, and twigs of willows, birches, and alders. Young feed on insects, many spiders, little vegetation.
  • Habitat: Tundra, willow scrub, muskeg; in winter, sheltered valleys at lower altitudes
  • Displays: Courting males call and strut, red combs over eyes swollen, head thrown back, tail raised and spread, wings drooped; followed by flight display with descending spiral.
  • Number of broods: 1
  • Nest: Often exposed in tundra; shallow depression lined with leaves, grass, few feathers.
  • Eggs: 5-14 bright red when laid, but wet red pigment is usually rubbed off in places, dries blackish-brown, rubbed areas show creamy, rarely reddish, ground color; 1.7" (43mm).
  • Incubation period: 21-22 days
  • Fledge: 10-12 days after hatching
  • Longevity Record: no data according to USGS Bird Banding Lab
    Average longevity has been estimated at about two years and maximum longevity is probably about six years.

Willow Ptarmigan with Chicks Video

Ptarmigan in summer plumage with small chicks.

Male Willow Ptarmigan Calling Video

This short video shows a male calling. The bird has started to molt the Winter plumage, but most of the body is still white.

Willow Ptarmigan in Winter Plumgage Video

Notice they are all white except for outer tail feathers. The Willow Ptarmigan are feeding on willow buds.


The Alaska State Bird, the Willow Ptarmigan, was adopted by the Territorial Legislature in 1955.

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