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Ptarmigan: characteristics, voice and curiosity

Ptarmigan: characteristics, voice and curiosity


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There Ptarmigan it is one of the birds to be considered at risk, today, in our areas, also according to the LIPU. The name probably sounds familiar to all of us but, as happens with many neighbors or office colleagues, we always end up knowing little about the details of his life, his true character and what he is risking. Today we want to learn a little about the facts of the Ptarmigan, a bird of the family of the Phasianidae of which there are - and perhaps this thing is not known to all - as many as 30 subspecies.

Another important news about this bird is that his state of conservation not good at all. It wasn't always like that, actually. Only in recent years has the situation worsened and today we can consider it in danger because it has been officially included in the red list of Italian species at risk of extinction as a "vulnerable" species, or in a poor state of conservation. We certainly owe a lot to degradation of its habitat natural due to the presence of man and his intrusive, to say the least, activities.

Ptarmigan: characteristics

To recognize the White Partridge without ever having seen it, we must imagine a bird similar in size to a pickaxe but with a completely different elegance. It has white wings and in winter it is totally white while in the other seasons it takes on a color closer to gray. The legs are quite short and in flight it does not have a great elegance but its white color and its own rapid wing beats which alternates with short glides, make it distinguishable from the pigeon it does not care to resemble.

If we see a partridge in flight from November to March, is white in the true sense of the word, except for some tail feathers which are black and clearly visible. The transformation takes place towards the month of April, depending on the temperatures: the wings and the belly are always white but there female turns brown - yellowish with some black marks while the male takes color on the chest, black, and on the upper part of the wings, gray. There moult which brings the ptarmigan back to its winter outfit begins towards the month of September.

Even the feet undergo a sort of seasonal moult, because they change shape to meet the needs of the bird which in winter must also be able to move on the fresh snow. They become snowshoe-shaped, in fact.

White Partridge: where it lives

It is certainly an alpine bird, the only one that is the size of a pigeon at least in our area, but it does not live in Italy. We can find our partridge in Eurasia, throughout the subarctic and even the Arctic, and then if we fly over the Atlantic Ocean, it is back in North America, also in Greenland and in the high altitude tundra. In small groups, then, we may also meet it in other areas that have climates similar to those just mentioned. For example in the Pyrenees, in Bulgaria, in our Alps, in Japan.

Beyond the geographical borders, it is a bird that does not live in the forests but beyond, higher up, where the presence of plants thins out and begins to prevail the stones, the alpine meadows, the snowy valleys. In winter it stays on the sunniest slopes, where the snow is less resistant and can find something to eat, in spring and summer it looks for the cooler ones and does not go down never below 2,500 meters.

Ptarmigan: what it eats

Although living in areas where it is not easy to find food, these birds stubbornly remain vegetarians except in the early stages of growth in which they also allow themselves some insects, to strengthen themselves. Once adults, only vegetables. They follow one diet based on flowers and fruits, leaves and buds especially of those shrubs and herbaceous plants that can grow at high altitudes, in very cold climates. In winter they look for vegetables rich in sugars and proteins but also the "snow fleas ", rich in protein.

Ptarmigan: reproduction

Along the course of the year, the Partridge lives in groups, it is not a solitary bird, and in both summer and autumn it forms flocks of a few dozen specimens. The courtship begins in spring, the male gets busy marking the territory and demonstrating his presence and his power. They usually sing making repetitive sounds from rocky spurs and then they fly following circular trajectories interrupted by sudden take-offs and landings, specifically designed to win the attention and hearts of females.

Mating, and the couple life, lasts a maximum of three months, the time to reproduce but certainly not to wean the young that are totally dependent on the mother. It treats them in the nest, takes care of them and grows them until they are autonomous.

But let's go back to the moment of spawning: maximum 8 at a time, to be hatched for 20 days. In this rather short period, the male is called to do his part by guarding his future children but as soon as the eggs hatch, he leaves. The chicks grow up peacefully with their mother and in three months they are already practically as big as an adult Partridge.

White Partridge: voice and other curiosities

From April to June, from six in the morning, you can hear the voice of this bird which is not particularly melodious. It is a hoarse sound like "kroo rr kkkk ", unmistakable.

In addition to the verse, the name of this genus of bird is also curious: "Lagopus ". This term comes from the Greek "lagos", which means "hare", and "pus", which means "foot" and reminds us of the bird's feathered legs. The name of the species, "Mutus", it derives from the Latin and means “mute”, with reference to the male singing, similar to a croak.
A third and more unlikely curiosity regarding today's bird is related to his own blind intestines inside which lives a rich bacterial flora very useful to ensure that even the least digestible foods become assimilable.


Video: Ptarmigan hunt. (May 2022).