While descending the Mount Evans Highway, and watching a large group of Mountain Goats as they descended, too, I happened to see some movement out in the tundra area. With a bit of luck, I saw a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) that were running away from me. I had looked for these very camouflaged birds many times, but had not seen them … today was my lucky day! Here are the only images I made from the car, before they ran off:
As you can see, these birds truly are a “hide and seek” bird. And in the winter, their coat changes to a snow white, giving them protection from potential predators in the winter time. The ptarmigan is in the grouse family and it’s predators include golden eagles and other birds of prey. I found once source that indicates this ptarmigan is sometimes called the “snow quail”, due to it’s color change to white in the winter. The ptarmigan is also different than most birds, in that it has feathers on it’s feet (to help fight off the extreme cold it experiences in the alpine tundra region it calls home), as well as feathers around the nose to help warm incoming air, before it reaches the respiratory tract. Quite a unique bird!