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BIRD

Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus)

Found nearly everywhere in Alaska’s high, treeless country, the willow ptarmigan is a hardy bird measuring up to 15 inches long. Changing color from mottled brown to snow white, it camouflages itself year round. Its feet are covered with warm feathers. Digging into snowbanks, it is able to keep out of freezing winds. Its winter diet includes willow twigs and a little birch. In warmer months, it eats berries, seeds, leaves, and insects. Soon after the snow melts, it nests on the ground. After the eggs hatch in late June to early July, the chicks grow with amazing speed. The male stays with the family, defending its brood without hesitation. It was named Alaska’s official bird in 1955.