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Alberta Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus)

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The Willow Ptarmigan is about 40 centimeters (16 inches) long.  In the summer, males are easily distinguished from the females by their reddish-brown heads, backs and breasts. In winter both sexes are entirely white, except for their black tails, eyes and bills. Legs and toes are completely feathered. Winter diet includes the buds and twigs of willows, birch and alders. In the summer, the young feed on insects and plants, while adults eat leaves, berries and seeds, but only a few insects. Upon arrival on the breeding ground, a male establishes a territory from which he excludes all other males. He displays plumage and makes a variety of boom and hoot sounds. His mate stays within the territory and incubates 7 to 10 yellow-brown eggs in a nest hidden under a bush. Eggs hatch in about 22 days and the young remain with the hen, feeding on insects and plants. As fall approaches, willow ptarmigan flock together in preparation for migration to wintering areas.  (Text information was provided by Alberta Government Resource Development.)

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