Grouse or Ptarmigan Birds

I identified the Ruffed Grouse based on its large size and those feather twinkles above its head. The Ptarmigan is identified due to the dark line behind the beak, its smaller size, and longer neck. The one I only identify as a Grouse bird is because I cannot yet determine the exact species. I could be wrong on the first two, but all of the above are commonly known as Grouse birds.

Have you seen Ptarmigans or Grouse birds yet ? I have only observed them 3 times in several years despite their commonality. Once up at Mount ST Helens, once while while hiking up Mount Rainier, and another at a hike near Mount Rainier. Each time it was at a fairly high altitude in a forested area, their standard habitat preference. I was quite surprised at the numbers and size of these birds. Generally known by the common name of Grouse and Ptarmigan there are several species under each of those common names, and a bit difficult to accurately identify. Why? Well, to begin with they are in the same Order and Family (Tetraonidae/Galliformes). And because you normally see them scrambling around in a dense forest area, and dark tree shade hides their real feather colors. Some also molt and change feather color between summer and winter. Chicken sized and larger, they will catch your attention. There are differences, of course. According to “BirdGuidance” The Grouse species are bigger with well rounded chest regions. The Ptarmigans are small but have longer necks. Now that gets you the difference between these two in general, but identifying the individual species sometimes remans a challenge depending on the time of year and the location you see them. I have identified the species above in connection to many pictures in my hard copy books and the ones on line.



Audubon Society Filed Guide to North American Birds

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