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Ptarmigan Toes

In winter, a ptarmigan practically has its own set of snowshoes
© Jamin H. Taylor View Large

With its rubbery-sounding rattles and clownish red eyebrows, the ptarmigan is quite the stand-out northern bird. As winter approaches, the ptarmigan’s feet grow feathers, and its claws grow longer. All that added surface area means the ptarmigan practically has its own set of snowshoes.

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Ptarmigan Toes

Written by Monica Gokey

This is BirdNote.

[call of a male Willow Ptarmigan LNS #105769]

With its rubbery-sounding rattles and clownish red eyebrows, the ptarmigan is quite the stand-out northern bird.

[call of a male Willow Ptarmigan again, then fade winter winds]

And it’s particularly well adapted to wintertime in the snowy realms it calls home.

Like Cinderella at midnight, this bird is utterly transformed by winter. During the autumn molt, the ptarmigan sheds its mottled brown plumage for a cloak of snowy-white.

And skip the glass slippers. As the winter approaches, the ptarmigan’s feet grow feathers! Even the bird’s claws grow longer. And that added surface area means the ptarmigan is ready to travel over the snow. It practically has its own set of snowshoes.

If you or I tried to travel across ptarmigan turf in winter, we’d likely sink into the snow up to our shins, our thighs, or even our hips. But not this bird!

The ptarmigan’s genus name, Lagopus, (LAY-go-pus), is a combination of the Greek words meaning foot and hare… like a rabbit. Lagopus. Hare-foot. The name’s a nod to another big-footed northerner, the snowshoe hare.

For more on the ptarmigan and other birds we feature, check out our website, bird-note-dot-org. I’m Mary McCann.

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
###
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Mary McCann
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Willow Ptarmigan LNS #105769 recorded by GA Keller.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote   October 2019

ID#  ptarmigan-02-2019-10-29    ptarmigan-02

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