Lagopus leucura - (Richardson, 1831)
White-tailed Ptarmigan
Other English Common Names: white-tailed ptarmigan
Synonym(s): Lagopus leucurus (Richardson, 1831)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lagopus leucura (Richardson, 1831) (TSN 677541)
French Common Names: lagopède à queue blanche
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.102622
Element Code: ABNLC10030
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Galliformes Phasianidae Lagopus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lagopus leucurus
Taxonomic Comments: Ellsworth et al. (1995) examined phylogenetic relationships among North American grouse based on mtDNA data and found that Falcipennis canadensis is more closely related to Bonasa umbellus (ruffed grouse) than to Dendragapus obscurus (blue grouse), which is allied with Lagopus (ptarmigan) and Tetrao (capercaillie, a European grouse).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 08Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 25Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (02Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S4), California (SNA), Colorado (S4), Idaho (SNA), Montana (S3), Navajo Nation (S1), New Mexico (S1B,S1N), Oregon (SNA), Utah (SNA), Washington (S3), Wyoming (S1)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5?), Northwest Territories (SU), Yukon Territory (S4)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: RESIDENT: central Alaska, northern Yukon, southwestern Mackenzie, south to Kenai Peninsula; Vancouver Island, Canada, Cascade Mountains in Washington, and in Rocky Mountains from British Columbia and Alberta south to northern New Mexico; introduced and established outside native range in high central Sierra Nevada in California (see Frederick and Gutierrez [1992] for account of release and range expansion); releases also have been made in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, Pike's Peak in Colorado, and Uintah Mountains in Utah.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: RESIDENT: central Alaska, northern Yukon, southwestern Mackenzie, south to Kenai Peninsula; Vancouver Island, Canada, Cascade Mountains in Washington, and in Rocky Mountains from British Columbia and Alberta south to northern New Mexico; introduced and established outside native range in high central Sierra Nevada in California (see Frederick and Gutierrez [1992] for account of release and range expansion); releases also have been made in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, Pike's Peak in Colorado, and Uintah Mountains in Utah.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, CAexotic, CO, ID, MT, NM, NN, ORexotic, UTexotic, WA, WY
Canada AB, BC, NT, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CO Clear Creek (08019), Costilla (08023), Grand (08049), Huerfano (08055), Las Animas (08071), Teller (08119)
MT Flathead (30029), Glacier (30035), Lewis and Clark (30049), Missoula (30063), Pondera (30073), Powell (30077), Teton (30099)
NM Mora (35033)*, Rio Arriba (35039)*, Santa Fe (35049)*, Taos (35055)*
WY Albany (56001)*, Carbon (56007)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
09 St. Marys (09040001)+, Belly (09040002)+
10 Sun (10030104)+, Two Medicine (10030201)+, Teton (10030205)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+*, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+*, Clear (10190004)+
11 Upper Arkansas (11020002)+, Huerfano (11020006)+, Purgatoire (11020010)+, Mora (11080004)+*
13 Alamosa-Trinchera (13010002)+*, Upper Rio Grande (13020101)+*, Pecos headwaters (13060001)+*
14 Colorado headwaters (14010001)+
17 Blackfoot (17010203)+, Middle Fork Flathead (17010207)+, South Fork Flathead (17010209)+, Swan (17010211)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Female incubates 4-7, sometimes 3-9, eggs for 22-23 days (Harrison 1978). Nestlings are precocial and downy. Brood size in Sierra Nevada averaged 2.6-2.8; brood size in five areas in Colorado was 3.2-4.5; brood size at flight age in Montana was 3.3-3.5. Young are guarded by both parents, capable of flying in about 10 days. Monogamous. In the Sierra Nevada, reproductive success decreased with increasing spring snow depth (Condor 94:622-627).
Ecology Comments: Broods stay together in family groups until following spring (Harrison 1978). Sedentary. In the Sierra Nevada, overall density was 4.4-5.7/100 ha in breeding season, 4.7-7.1/100 ha postbreeding; density within occupied habitat was 10.5-14.2/100 ha in breeding season, 21.8-27.7/100 ha postbreeding; number of breeding pairs was 1.8/100 ha and 2.8/100 ha in two areas (Frederick and Gutierrez 1992). Overall breeding density at Logan Pass, Montana, was 6.8/100 ha; density within suitable habitat was 19.3/100 ha; 10.6/100 ha postbreeding. In Colorado, breeding density in three unhunted populations was 9.6-11.9/100 ha; 15.7-23.4 postbreeding (see Frederick and Gutierrez 1992). In Colorado, winter home ranges of 17 females averaged 1.62 sq km (4 of these averaged 2.44 sq km); those of 2 males averaged 0.44 sq km; winter density averaged 10-20 birds/sq km (Giesen and Braun 1992).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Alpine, Bare rock/talus/scree
Habitat Comments: Alpine tundra, especially in rocky areas with sparse vegetation (AOU 1983). Summer habitats in the Rocky Mountains consistently include moist, low-growing alpine vegetation. In Colorado, percent canopy cover of willow was higher at winter feeding sites than at random sites (Giesen and Braun 1992). In the Sierra Nevada, breeding season habitats were in areas of tall (>30 cm) willow shrubs and contained more subshrub, moss, and boulder cover than in unused habitats; in postbreeding season, used topographic depressions within breeding territories; brooding hens used moist meadows, while flocks occupied sites with abundant boulders; primarily used the SALIX ANGLORUM ANTIPLASTA vegetation alliance on rocky, north-facing slopes; willow abundance and proximity to water were important habitat factors (Frederick and Gutierrez 1992). Nests in alpine tundra, in rocky areas or sparsely vegetated, grassy slopes. Tends to search for vacant territory in natal area. High fidelity to breeding territory in successive years.
Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore
Food Comments: Winter diet alder catkins, willow buds and twigs (primary winter food in Colorado is willow buds); also buds and needles of spruces, pines, and firs. Spring and summer diet leaves and flowers of herbaceous plants, willow buds, berries, seeds, and insects.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 32 centimeters
Weight: 348 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Grouse and Ptarmigan

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Lek, Nesting Area, Nesting Season Foraging Area, Nonbreeding Habitat, Year-round Habitat
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more birds in appropriate habitat.
Mapping Guidance: To the extent possible and practicable, occurrences should encompass the annual range of a population. If winter and summer ranges are distinctly separate, map using separate polygons. If they are more than 15 kilometers apart, separate breeding and nonbreeding occurrences should be created.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 15 km
Separation Justification: Unsuitable habitat includes open water as well as other habitats through or over which birds may travel but in which they do not nest or forage much if at all.

Occurrences are difficult to circumscribe because most species are partially migratory (i.e., some individuals migrate small or large distances whereas others are relatively sedentary) (see Schroeder and Braun 1993). Migrations may extend up to 12 kilometers in Blue Grouse (Pelren 1996), up to about 40 km (usually less than 25 km) in Greater Prairie-Chickens in Colorado (Schroeder and Braun 1993), and up to 170 km in Greater Prairie-Chickens in Wisconsin.

Adult male (and probably adult female) Lesser Prairie-Chickens have high fidelity to breeding leks (Giesen 1998), and some leks have persisted more than 30 to 40 years (Copelin 1963, Giesen 1998). Largest individual home ranges recorded are of males in winter; in Texas, these ranged from 331-1945 hectares (n = 4; Taylor and Guthery 1980a). Maximum movements between spring leks and late-fall relocations was 20.8 kilometers for subadults and 3.2 kilometers for adults (Campbell 1970). Combined home ranges of males and females associated with breeding leks ranged from 25.2 to 61.9 square kilometers (minimum convex polygon) in Colorado (n = 4 leks; Giesen 1991).

Female Greater Prairie-Chickens (T. c. attwateri) had winter home ranges as large as 910 hectares (Horkel 1979). Median female home range in late spring was 266 hectares (Schroeder 1991).

Summer home ranges of sharp-tailed grouse range from 13 to 406 hectares (summarized by Connelly 1998). Individuals generally fly less than 5 kilometers to a winter range (Giesen and Connelly 1993), but can fly up to 20 kilometers (Meints 1991). Some ptarmigan (e.g. Rock in northern North America) can be considered migratory.

Greater Sage-Grouse: average nest to lek distance about 3 kilometers (Connelly et al. 2000).

Separation distance is somewhat arbitrary and is less than the extent of known seasonal movements of some species. However, a longer separation distance in many cases likely would yield unreasonably large occurrences or, for some species, might join separate populations as single occurrences. Note that locations separated by a gap exceeding the separation distance should be treated as the same occurrence if there is evidence indicating that such patches encompass the same population (e.g., individuals are known to migrate between the patches).

Date: 26Apr2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 11Apr1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2004. Forty-fifth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 121(3):985-995.

  • American Ornithologists' Union. Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.

  • Andrews, R. R. and R. R. Righter. 1992. Colorado Birds. Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver. 442 pp.

  • Benson, D. P. 2002. Low extra-pair paternity in White-tailed Ptarmigan. Condor 104:192-197.

  • Bergerud, A. T., and M. W. Gratson, editors. 1987. Adaptive strategies and population ecology of northern grouse. Univ. Minnesoat Press. 785 pp.

  • Braun, C. E. and G. E. Rogers. 1971. The white-tailed ptarmigan in Colorado. Colorado Div. Game, Fish, and Parks Tech. Publ. 27. 80 pp.

  • Braun, C. E., K. Martin, and L. A. Robb. 1993. White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus). In The Birds of North America, No. 68 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). Philadlephia: The Acedemy of Natural Sciences; Washington, D.C.: The American Ornithologists' Union. 24 pp.

  • Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, and M. C. McNall. 1990b. The birds of British Columbia. Volume 2. Nonpasserines: diurnal birds of prey through woodpeckers. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, B.C. 636 pp.

  • Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990. The Birds of British Columbia Vol. 2: Nonpasserines: Diurnal Birds of Prey through Woodpeckers. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.

  • Choate, T. S. 1963. Habitat and population dynamics of White-tailed Ptarmigan in Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 27:684-699.

  • Choate, T. S. 1960. Observations on the reproductive activities of white-tailed ptarmigan (LAGOPUS LEUCURUS) in Glacier Park, Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 120 pp.

  • Clarke, J. A., and R. E. Johnson. 1992. The influence of spring snow depth on White-tailed Ptarmigan breeding success in the Sierra Nevada. Condor 94:622-627.

  • Connelly, J. W., M. A. Schroeder, A. R. Sands, and C. E. Braun. 2000. Guidelines to manage sage grouse populations and their habitats. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:967-985.

  • Copelin, F. F. 1963. The Lesser Prairie Chicken in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Department Technical Bulletin 6.

  • Downes, C.M., E.H. Dunn and C.M Francis. 2000. Canadian Landbird Monitoring Strategy: monitoring needs and priorities into the new millenium. Partners in Flight - Canada. Ottawa, Ontario.

  • Edwards, J. G. 1957. The ptarmigan of Glacier National Park. Audubon Magazine 59:252-255.

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  • Frederick, G. P., and R. J. Gutierrez. 1992. Habitat use and population characteristics of the white-tailed ptarmigan in the Sierra Nevada, California. Condor 94:889-902.

  • Giesen, K. M. 1991. Population inventory and habitat use by Lesser Prairie-Chickens in southeast Colorado. Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Report W-152-R, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

  • Giesen, K. M., and C. E. Braun. 1992. Winter home range and habitat characteristics of white-tailed ptarmigan in Colorado. Wilson Bull. 104:263-272.

  • Giesen, K.M. 1998. Lesser prairie-chicken (Typanuchus pallidicinctus). In A. Poole and F. Gill, editors. The Birds of North America, No. 364. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 20 pp.

  • Godfrey, W. E. 1986. The birds of Canada. Revised edition. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa. 596 pp. + plates.

  • Harrison, C. 1978. A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Hoffman, R. W., and K. M. Giesen. 1983. Demography of an introduced population of white-tailed ptarmigan. Can. J. Zool. 61:1758-1764.

  • Horkel, J. D. 1979. Cover and space requirements of Attwater's prairie chicken (TYMPANUCHUS CUPIDO ATTWATERI) in Refugio County, Texas. Ph.D. Thesis. Texas A&M University, College Station. 96 pp.

  • Johnsgard, P.A. 1983b. The grouse of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE. xvi + 413 pp.

  • Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, 6th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. vi + 144 pp.

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  • Schroeder, M. A., and C. E. Braun. 1993. Partial migration in a population of greater prairie-chickens in northeastern Colorado. Auk 110:21-28.

  • Scott, M. D. 1982. Distribution and habitat use of White-tailed Ptarmigan in Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 41:57-66.

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  • Taylor, M. A., and F. S. Guthery. 1980a. Fall-winter movements, ranges, and habitat use of lesser prairie chickens. Journal of Wildlife Management 44:521-524.

  • Taylor, M. A., and F. S. Guthery. 1980b. Status, Ecology, and Management of the Lesser Prairie Chicken. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RM-77, 15 p. Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO.

  • Taylor, M. A., and F. S. Guthery. 1980c. Dispersal of a lesser prairie chicken (TYMPANUCHUS PALLIDICINCTUS). Southwestern Naturalist 25:124-125.

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  • Wildlife Management Information System (WMIS). 2006+. Geo-referenced wildlife datasets (1900 to present) from all projects conducted by Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada.  Available at http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/programs/wildlife-research/wildlife-management-information-services

  • Wright, P. L., and C. H. Conaway. 1950. White-tailed Ptarmigan in the Mission Mountains, Montana. Condor 52:238.

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