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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Rock ptar­mi­gan

Rock ptar­mi­gan

Anyo­ne hiking in Spits­ber­gen has a good chan­ce of stumb­ling over a Rock ptar­mi­gan, that sud­den­ly flies up. The birds rely on their good camou­fla­ge and usual­ly fly up noi­si­ly at the last moment.

Svalbard Ptarmigan

Male Rock ptar­mi­gan in win­ter.

Descrip­ti­on: The Rock ptar­mi­gan is 35-40 cm long and 490-1200 g in weight. Rock ptar­mi­gans moult three times a year. White during the win­ter, brow­nish sum­mer plu­mage. The male always has a red stri­pe abo­ve the eye.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­on: The Rock ptar­mi­gan can be found in most are­as in the arc­tic. The sub­s­pe­ci­es L.m.hyperborea is only found in Sval­bard and Franz Josef Land. In Sval­bard, the ptar­mi­gan occurs ever­y­whe­re except the nor­the­as­tern­most parts of the archi­pe­la­go. It is the only bird that remains on land during the who­le year and does not migra­te to open water or sou­thwards.

Bio­lo­gy: The rock ptar­mi­gan lives of vege­ta­ti­on; the exact com­po­si­ti­on of the diet chan­ges with the sea­sons. The male occu­p­ies the bree­ding ter­ri­to­ry as ear­ly as mid March. This is often a steep, rocky slo­pe, whe­re some vege­ta­ti­on is still avail­ab­le. Mating takes place in May and egg lay­ing (nine to ele­ven eggs) in ear­ly or mid May, depen­ding on the timing of the snow melt. The fema­le sits for three weeks.

Svalbard Ptarmigan

Rock ptar­mi­gan (fema­le in the front).

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: The size of the popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is not known, but ptar­mi­gan are qui­te abundant. In sui­ta­ble ter­rain, the­re may be three to five males with one or two hens each per squa­re kilo­met­re. In Spits­ber­gen, ptar­mi­gan are hun­ted by locals in autumn and ear­ly win­ter.
The sci­en­ti­fic name used to be Lag­opus mutus, but it has recent­ly been chan­ged into Lag­opus muta, becau­se lag­opus is deri­ved from an anci­ent Greek word of femi­ni­ne gen­der, which indi­ca­tes “hare foot”.

Svalbard Ptarmigan

Moul­ting male Rock ptar­mi­gan, also cal­led Sval­bard ptar­mi­gan.

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last modification: 2017-12-14 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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