Ptarmigans are a part of the grouse family, which is a group composed of small birds, these birds are actually related to chickens, peacocks, and turkeys. Scientists say there are around 19 species of birds in the grouse family. As ptarmigans belong to the grouse family, these birds are quite small, and there are three different species that we know of. The first one being the willow, then we have the rock and white-tailed ptarmigan. People usually refer to these birds as a mix between a chicken and a pigeon. Additionally, ptarmigans can be found in the arctic regions in North America where is very cold, that’s probably why they are called snow chickens.
In the wild, ptarmigans can live up to 2 years. These birds are masters of camouflage, which is a key element to survive since they are a common prey to foxes, owls, and lynxes. Their feathers can have different colors depending on the season, for example, willow ptarmigans have white feathers during winter and a mix of brown and red colors in summer. As mentioned before, they live in areas where the cold weather can be deathly to other species, however, these birds can survive well even in the coldest winters.
The reason why they are able to survive is that they are equipped with feathered feet that enable them to walk in deep snow, they also like to dig holes in the snow to create burrows, that way they can hide from predators and take shelter. These birds represent no danger to humans, in fact, wild ptarmigans seem to be unafraid of human beings.
If something helps them survive for a long time is their camouflage abilities. Like we said before, these birds can change the colors of their feathers depending on the season, during summer their feathers are on the warmer side with colors like brown and red. But, during winter where everything is pure white, ptarmigans rock white feathers that help them blend very well with the snow, sometimes predators wouldn’t even be able to see them. The fact that their feathers are white is not only good for hiding from predators, but also, as interesting as it sounds, white feathers keep them warm as they don’t have to produce any pigment.
Just like chickens, ptarmigans are floor pickers, they eat whatever they can find on the floor, they count with a digestive system that is specially built to thrive in the winter. This along with their camouflage and warm feathers, it’s what makes them survive up to 2 years in the wild. Ptarmigans were created to not only survive during the winter, but actually enjoy and thrive during the cold season.