Portrait of a ptarmigan (c) Sandra Standbridge


Ptarmigans are possibly Britain's toughest birds and live in the cold, harsh mountains of Scotland. In snowy conditions, their feathered feet act as snow shoes, so the ptarmigan can walk even on soft snow.

Ptarmigans are masters of camouflage, changing their colour to suit the season. In winter, they are completely white except for a short black tail, while in summer a brown and yellow plumage blends the ptarmigan into the lichen covered rocks.

This wide-ranging game bird can be found in many of the world’s alpine and arctic regions, and they are the only birds in Britain to turn completely white.

Scientific name: Lagopus mutus

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Rock ptarmigan,
  • Snow chicken

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Map showing the distribution of the Ptarmigan taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The Ptarmigan can be found in a number of locations including: Arctic, Asia, Europe, North America, Russia, United Kingdom. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Ptarmigan distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern


BBC News about Ptarmigan

  • Southerly ptarmigan decline fears A National Trust for Scotland (NTS) survey failed to find any ptarmigan on Goatfell and the Arran mountains - its most southerly outpost. This has prompted fears that the bird is no longer breeding there.

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