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Jim Guion

Ptarmigan - Rock or White-tailed?

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I was backpacking in Denali National Park in June this year and ran across a ptarmigan on the rocky tundra on top of Mt. Galen.

The photos are good and I have looked at all my guidebooks, which all say it is hard to tell the difference between Rock and White-tailed Ptarmigan, but I can't determine which it is for certain, although I lean toward White-tailed based on the Sibley illustrations and descriptions.  I cannot see any black in the tail feathers.

Both species are seen in the park and can be in the same alpine tundra habitat.  Any help on this from an expert would be greatly appreciated!




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13 hours ago, IvoryBillHope said:

Any white in the tail feathers should mean White-tailed, right?  Sibley shows the red eyebrow in all breeding male ptarmigan species. 

Interesting. On Cornell, it doesn't show a red eyebrow for the White-tailed males, so I pulled out my Stokes and it does it just the one plumage, where the picture is tiny and was hard to see. 

My bad.

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Thanks everyone, I ended up pouring through the photos in the Macaulay Library (ebird uses it) and my photos far more resemble the coloring of a Rock Ptarmigan.  Some of the guidebooks mention that the black tail feathers don't always show and are tipped with white anyway, and many of the photos of Rock Ptarmigan do not show any black.  The coloring of the White-tailed Ptarmigan in the photos is much different, so I submitted it to ebird as a Rock Ptarmigan.  If only the bird had flown...

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