Rock ptarmigan


The Ötztal Alps are home to more than 10% of the Austrian breeding stock. The rock ptarmigan belongs to the family of grouse and lives above the tree line all year long. Alpine turf, dwarf-shrub heath and debris fields count among their habitats. While breeding, the birds can often be found in spaces located a little deeper. In winter they seek out mainly south-facing slopes and snowless hilltops.



In summer, the cock is taupe with black spots, the hen light brown with dark brown ribbons. In winter, the rock ptarmigans are optimally camouflaged with their white feathers. Only feathers on the tail and, for the male, a stripe from the bill to behind the eyes remain black. Rock ptarmigans eat a wide range of food: young shoots, berries, seeds and buds, spiders, insects and worms are eaten. From mid-April, the mating season begins with the red lappets of the cocks standing out in particular. The chicks are “precocial birds”, meaning they leave the nest as soon as they have hatched and set off in search of food together with their mother.



Special features

The legs of the rock ptarmigan are feathered all the way down to the toes. This allows them to walk on soft snow without sinking in too deep.



The rock ptarmigan is not considered endangered throughout Europe, as the bird is very widely distributed. However, certain human practises (e.g. expansion of winter sports areas) may present a threat to stocks.

[Translate to en:] Alpenschneehuhn (Lagopus muta) ©Reinhard Hölzl - Naturpark Ötztal