Rock Ptarmigan is found in harsh northern environments, either on the tundra
of Alaska and northern Canada, or on rocky slopes or above treeline in the
mountains. As with the other closely related
and Willow Ptarmigan, the plumage turns white in winter, although the males
maintain a distinctive black stripe on the face that can be used to
distinguish Rock Ptarmigan from other Ptarmigan species. Rock Ptarmigan are
a popular food source and gamebird in parts of their range.
Habitat: Rock Ptarmigan are found in open habitats
at higher elevations and in the northern tundra. On the tundra in the
northern part of their range, they are found in areas of tundra interspersed
with rocky outcrops and shrubby areas.
Diet: Mostly vegetarian, feeding on the buds,
leaves,and seeds of dwarf birch, alder, and willows, as well as berries
where available. They will also eat insects and spiders, with young
birds feeding heavily upon these items upon leaving the nest.
Behavior: Forages by walking along the ground and
clipping vegetation with its bill, or opportunistically picking up insects
Nesting: Nests are built on teh ground in rocky,
barren areas, typically at the base of alarge rock. The nest is a
shallow depression, with a loose lining of lichen, grasses, and moss.
The female alone tends the young, but the young must feed themselves upon
leaving the nest.
Song: Rock Ptarmigan males give a throaty croaking
Migration: In the fall, birds at higher elevations
typically move to lower elevations. Small flocks move also move
southward together in the fall, leaving the most northern parts of its range
and moving southward in Canada and to lower elevations.
Conservation Status: Common and widespread.
The IUCN lists Rock Ptarmigan as a species of "Least Concern".