Looking at the Science
You might be familiar with the ruffled, spruce, and other varieties of grouse that bear a striking resemblance to the ptarmigan. Are grouse and ptarmigan the same?? As far as classification goes, the term grouse refers to the Tetraonidae family, which belongs to the order Galliformes. This family, which we refer to as the grouse family, includes a number of species, such as the pheasant, the partridge, the prairie chicken, and the ptarmigan. These species, in addition to those with grouse in their names, are all characterized as game birds with round, plump bodies who often stay low to the ground.
The grouse family includes all types of ptarmigan, which are the rock ptarmigan, the willow ptarmigan, and the white-tailed ptarmigan. While ptarmigan appear to be somewhat slimmer with longer necks, they are indeed considered grouse, However, within the grouse family, there also exists the grouse genus and the ptarmigan genus. These two groups divide all birds in the family with grouse or ptarmigan in their respective names. The grouse genus includes the ruffed, greater-sage, gunnison-sage, spruce, dusky, sooty, and sharp-tailed grouse. The ptarmigan genus includes the white-tailed, rock, and willow ptarmigan. So, while the ptarmigan is a member of the bigger grouse family, it is not a member of the sub-classification, the grouse genus.
A Little “Grouse” a Long Way
So, are grouse and ptarmigan the same? If it’s a little confusing, you can think of it this way: all ptarmigan are grouse, but not all grouse are ptarmigan. Ptarmigan belong to their own special little genus, distinguished by their genetic makeup. Regardless of how they are classified, grouse are an iconic bird that has become a symbol across Canada and towards the arctic circle. The grouse family, which even includes the wild turkey, can be found across the world.