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BirdNote: Ptarmigan In Winter

Paul Bannick

Look who's wearing snowshoes!

Both the Willow Ptarmigan and these White-tailed Ptarmigan, feathered mostly brown in summer, are utterly transfigured by an autumn molt.

As snow begins to mantle their world, both species, now all white, blend in superbly. But the ptarmigan pulls another trick. It adds dense white feathering on both the tops and bottoms of its feet. And its claws grow longer. The bird grows snowshoes!