Range. - Higher ranges of the Rocky Mountains, from New Mexico north to Alaska.
Ptarmigan are remarkable birds in that they are in an almost continual state of molting, nearly every month in the year showing them in different stages of plumage, ranging from the snow-white winter dress to the summer one in which reddish-brown prevails on Willow Ptarmigan and a black and gray barred effect predominates on the other species. Notice that they are feathered to the toes, in winter the feathers on the toes growing dense and hair-like, not only protecting the toes from the cold but making excellent snowshoes which enable them to walk with impunity over the lightest snow.
Ptarmigan form the staple article of diet for northern foxes, and were it not for the fact that their plumage changes to correspond to the appearance of the ground at the various seasons they would fare hardly indeed.
In spring the little red combs above the eyes of the males are swollen and conspicuous. At this season they strut and perform curious antics, such as all Grouse are noted for.
This species differs from any of the preceding in having at all seasons of the year, a white tail; it is also somewhat smaller than the Rock Ptarmigan. They nest abundantantly near the summits of the ranges in Colorado, making their nests among the rocks, and generally lining them with a few grasses. During June, they lay from six to twelve eggs having a creamy background, speckled and blotched with chestnut brown. Size 1.70 x 1.15.
Range. - Kenai Peninsular, Alaska. A similar but paler (in summer) variety of the preceding. The nesting habits or eggs will not differ.