Ptarmigans are small game birds that can’t weigh more than 2 pounds. These birds are found in arctic environments in North America. They are often associated with chickens, and the truth is that ptarmigans are part of the grouse family, a family of small birds, which chickens, turkeys, and peacocks also belong to. During summer, ptarmigans can change the color of their feathers to brown and red, they also like to go to areas where there are lush vegetation and trees, such as arctic valleys. In winter, ptarmigans change environments, they seek more protected areas for the cold season, areas where the vegetation is dense enough to guarantee a hiding spot.
These small birds are well situated when it comes to population, reaching about 8 million of them. They have a mortality rate of around 60%, their main cause of death is not environmental change or scarcity of food, it’s actually predation. Since ptarmigans live in cold areas where the winter can be lethal to some species, there are many predators that are in need of food during the cold season.
Foxes, lynxes, and owls are just some of the animals that commonly eat ptarmigans. But, predators not always choose to eat the birds, sometimes they are pleased with only eating the eggs or even the chicks. An interesting thing is that ptarmigan nests are more frequented by avian predations like owls, ravens, gulls, falcons, and hawks. In general, the predators of ptarmigans are falcons, eagles, weasels, wolves, wolverines, foxes, gulls, ravens, crows, lynxes, and polar bears, to name a few.
Just like any prey, ptarmigans don’t make it easy for predators. Since these birds live in brutally cold areas, some species might find it difficult to survive, but for ptarmigans, it’s just a walk to the park. Essentially, these birds are capable of surviving even the coldest winters for their abilities to camouflage well with the environment. In winter, their feathers turn to a white color that makes it perfect to blend with the snow, aside from that, they have heavily feathered feet, ideal for walking over deep snow.
As well, they are able to survive for the fact that they take shelter in burrows they dig into the snow, their feathers help them to stay warm and the fact that they hide underground, it’s a good strategy to staying out of the predator’s range for a while. Their camouflage abilities and small size are what guarantees them the perfect hiding skills in order to survive predators.