The Ptarmigan can be found on mountain slopes and summits of Scotland where it is a relatively common bird seen regularly by mountain walkers walking along the high peaks of the Scottish Munros.  It is thought that the summer breeding population in Britain is 8,000 to 10,000 pairs.  The world population is probably over one million birds which means they are not globally threatened although their numbers are in decline in some countries due to hunting.

They are also found along the coast of Norway, and through most of Iceland in mountains and amongst the tundra. Indeed it has a large sub-arctic range which spreads much further than Northern Europe.
Ptarmigan have different names in different countries, in Britain and Canada they are known as "Ptarmigan" but in most of Europe they are called "Rock Ptarmigan".  In America they are called "Snow Chicken" whilst in Japan they are "Raichou".

Ptarmigan has white wings and belly all year around, but in the late autumn and winter it can often turn pure white as camouflage against predators such as Eagles who hunt Ptarmigan in the snow.  They are a medium sized game bird which is about 35 cm in length.

It is easy to tell the male and female Ptarmigan apart, the male has the distinctive red red eye brows, where as the female has black.


Ptarmigan are a great species to photograph, generally a lot of effort has to be spent walking in the high mountains to find them.  But one you do find them it is important to use good field work to ensure you don't scare them and they fly off.  But when you do manage to get some shots they are good fun and produce some rewarding results.

The birds below show them in their typical summer plumage where the underside remains white but they revert to a more mottled brown colour for their camouflage.