Rock Ptarmigan

Lagopus muta

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This specimen most likely (the gender of the specimen was not comprehensively documented) shows a female rock ptarmigan in its particularly thick, white winter plumage. Legs, feet and toes are all covered in feathers, which not only keeps the bird warm in the winter but also helps it to walk on snowy surfaces. The seasonal white plumage simultaneously provides excellent camouflage. The birds dwell in so-called snow caves where they rest and are thus extremely difficult to spot. During the mating season, breeding males in their winter plumage sport red, featherless patches - called combs - above their eyes, which swell up when they are aroused. The absence of a black loreal stripe is indicative of a young male or more likely a female. Rock ptarmigans are not considered endangered globally due to their extensive range. In Germany, however, populations have only been noted to occur in Bavaria and the birds are extremely rare. The intensive development of holiday, hiking and ski resorts has resulted in extensive habitat loss and collisions with ski lifts and mountain stations have become more common. Rock ptarmigans are very sensitive to disturbances in their habitat and airspace, which drastically reduces their ability to breed. Precautionary avalanche blasting may also be detrimental to overwintering rock ptarmigans.

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