Learn all about the Willow Ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska.

Willow ptarmigan
Lagopus lagopus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 13 inches
  • Medium-sized, stocky, round-winged, chicken-like bird
  • Squarish black tail
  • Small black bill
  • Legs and toes feathered
  • Brown or white uppertail coverts cover center of tail

Male alternate:

  • Red comb over eye
  • Reddish-brown head and neck
  • White wings and leg feathering
  • Body reddish-brown barred with black or white depending on molt stage

Female alternate:

  • Brown plumage with black spotting and barring
  • Small red comb over eye


  • Entirely white plumage except for dark brownish tail
  • Small red comb over eye

Similar species:

In alternate plumage, the males are distinctive with their reddish-brown
head and neck. Rock and White-tailed Ptarmigan are browner. In all plumages
White-tailed Ptarmigan has a white, rather than black tail. Female Willow
Ptarmigans are difficult to separate from female Rock Ptarmigans but Rocks
have a smaller bill. In basic plumage, the Rock Ptarmigan often has a black

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
Source: USGS


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