The ptarmigan is a bird resembling a chicken that inhabits the tundra and alpine regions of the northern part of the world. Ptarmigans are a hardy bird, spending the winters in these areas despite the harsh weather conditions. A member of the grouse family of birds, ptarmigans spend most of their time on the ground.
There are three different types of ptarmigans: the willow, the rock and the white-tailed ptarmigan, with the willow ptarmigan being by far the most common.
Ptarmigans can be as long as 17 inches, have a wingspan of 2 feet and reach weights of up to 28 ounces.
The ptarmigan is capable of changing its colors; it turns white in the winter so as to blend in with its snowy surroundings and back to a dark and light color pattern in the warmer months when the snow is gone.
The white-tailed ptarmigan lives in mountainous territories as far south as New Mexico and is the smallest grouse in all of North America.
The typical ptarmigan will subsist on a diet consisting of lichens, twigs, mosses, buds, berries, seeds and insects.
In 1955 the Alaska legislature decided to make the willow ptarmigan the official state bird.