The Ptarmigan, also known outside Europe as Rock Ptarmigan, is 34-36 cm (13-14 in) long (tail 8 cm (3.1 in)) with a wing-span of 54-60 cm (21-24 in). It is slightly smaller than the Willow Ptarmigan by about 10%. The Rock Ptarmigan is seasonally camouflaged. Its feathers moult from white in winter to brown in spring or summer. The breeding male has greyish upper parts with white wings and under parts. In winter, its plumage becomes completely white except for the black tail.

Habitat and Distribution

This is a sedentary species. It breeds across arctic and subarctic Eurasia and North America (Greenland) on rocky mountainsides and tundra. It is widespread in the Arctic Cordillera and is found in the mountains of Scotland, the Pyrenees, the Alps, Bulgaria, the Urals, the Pamir Mountains, the Altay Mountains, and Japan. It can be distinguished from the winter Willow Ptarmigan in North America by habitat, the Rock Ptarmigan prefers higher elevations and more barren habitat.


The Rock Ptarmigan feeds primarily on birch and willow buds and catkins when available. It will also eat various seeds, leaves, flowers and berries of other plant species. Insects are eaten by the developing young.


The Ptarmigan becomes sexually mature at six months of age and commonly has up to six chick.

Calls and Songs

The male's `song` is a loud croaking.