Willow Ptarmigan

PtarmiganMy trip to Bethel got me thinking about ptarmigan. The school district media center happened to have two very nicely taxidermied winter-plumage birds, so the students and I drew them in several classes. The kids knew ptarmigan well–they are a popular game/subsistence birds out there.

Ptarmigan are also pretty common around Juneau; we have all three Alaska species (rock, white-tailed, and willow), with rock and willow being the most abundant here. Willows are lower-elevation birds in general. They like deciduous thickets. I’ve often followed their soft, snowshoed tracks among the blueberry bushes behind my house. Every once in a while, I see one. It’s always a special occasion. They’re so trim and white and neat, with those sharp small black beaks and bright black eyes.

This sketch is based on a photo by my naturalist/photographer friend Bob Armstrong.

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