The ptarmigan is a member of the grouse family and one of the most adapted to its alpine tundra climate. Resembling a chicken, this bird is a ground dweller.
There are many sub-species of the ptarmigan family, but they are all equally well adapted to their surroundings.
The main adaptation of ptarmigans is its ability to change its plumage (feathers) to suit its surroundings. This means that during the warm summer months their feathers turn a dark grayish brown, while in winter their appearance changes to a beautiful white, with only a black line by its eyes.
This black line by their eyes is a unique adaptation to the sun’s rays reflecting on the snow. This line acts as a pair of goggles by preventing snow blindness.
These birds can also escape the cold and hungry predators on the prowl during winter by burrowing themselves in the snow.
They have feathers around their legs that act as socks, protecting them from the extreme cold weather of the alpine tundra.
There are also fine feathers around their nostrils, which warm the air before they breathe it, which protects their respiratory tract from the cold.
During the long winter months, the ptarmigan conserves his energy by avoiding any flights, and instead stays close to the snow-banks.
In case they are face to face with a prey, their primary escape tactic is a full upward flight motion from their seating position. This gives them instant flight without having to climb gradually.
Their mating call allows them to stick to one partner. When the male bird sings its song in a loud rough voice, it attracts its lady who is able to recognize her partner’s cry from all the other males making similar sounds.
In addition, other external factors are outside of the bird’s natural adaptations that help it to thrive. The most important is that wildlife conservation laws prohibit the poaching of ptarmigan for food.