Cinereous, with transverse undulating lines and spots of black, (summer); or wholly white, (winter); shafts of the quills, and lateral tail-feathers, always black.
T. Lagopus, Sab. Supp. Parry s First Voy. p. exevii. Richards. App. Parry s Second Voy. p. 350. Ptarmigan, Mont. Orn. Diet. Selb. Illust. vol. I. p. 430. pl. 59. f. 2. & pi. 60. Shaw, Gen. Zool. vol. xi. p. 287. pl. 21. Bern. Brit. Birds, vol. I. p. 343.
Entire length fifteen inches: length of the bill (from the forehead) eight lines, (from the gape) ten lines; of the tarsus one inch four lines; of the tail four inches three lines; of the wing seven inches six lines: breadth, wings extended, twenty-four inches six lines.
(Male in winter plumage). A streak from the corner of the bill across the eyes, lateral tail-feathers, and shafts of the quills, black; the rest of the plumage pure white: above the eyes a scarlet fringed membrane: tarsi and toes thickly clothed with woolly feathers: bill and claws black. In the female, the naked membrane above the eyes is less conspicuous, and the black on the lore altogether wanting. (Male in summer plumage). All the upper parts of the body, scapulars, tertiaries, neck, breast, and sides under the wings, cinereous brown, with transverse undulating black lines, and minute dusky spots: a few reddish orange bars on the head and neck only: primary and secondary quills, (with the exception of the black shafts), greater part of the wing-coverts, belly, under tail-coverts, and legs, white: two middle tail-feathers nearly all white; the others black, some of them slightly tipped with white. The female in summer does not show so much of the rufous tint on the head and neck. (Egg). Yellowish white, sparingly blotched and spotted with black brown: long. diam. one inch eight lines; trans, diam. one inch two lines.
Found only in the Highlands of Scotland, and the adjacent isles. Was formerly met with in some of the mountainous parts of Cumberland and Westmoreland, but is supposed now to be extinct in England. Frequents the summits of the loftiest hills, from whence it rarely descends into the plains. Feeds on the berries and tender shoots of alpine plants. Pairs early in the Spring, and lays its eggs on the bare ground, from eight to fourteen in number. Obs. This species is also met with in North America; but it is not found on the Continent, where it has been always confounded with the following.