Montana Official State Travel Site
Facebook Flickr Twitter Youtube 1.800.847.4868


Aside from being a great word for spelling contests, ptarmigans are also known for their unique ability to change color and blend in with their surroundings in winter. In fact, ptarmigans adapt to winter quite well; they become pure white to provide perfect camouflage against a snowy background, while a covering of short feathers on their feet form a sort of "snowshoe" to keep them from sinking into the snow. And where do they live in winter? They're quite comfortable burrowing into snow banks, where they can spend the nights in safety. In summer, ptarmigans change color to match their warm weather surroundings. They become a mottled gray-brown to mix in with the trees and shrubs where they live.

Lagopus leucurus altipetens

Ptarmigans have a relatively limited range in Montana, inhabiting only alpine meadows above the tree-line near Glacier National Park. They nest wherever they have enough cover on the ground, lining the nest with grass or leaves. Their eggs may be cream colored or red with dark spots.

Ptarmigan Map