Ptarmigan

 Roast Ptarmigan

The ptarmigan, which is either a variety of grouse or grouse in its winter plumage, and black game, when roasted, are cooked in precisely the same manner as grouse. 


Ptarmigan  (Lagopus ), a bird nearly allied to the true grouse, differs chiefly in having the toes as well as the legs thickly clothed with short feathers. They are natives of the northern parts of the world, of elevated or of arctic regions. With the exception of the Red Grouse, the species change color on the approach of winter, assuming a white or nearly white plumage. All are esteemed as food.

The Common Ptarmigan is now resident in the Lofoden Island, in Scandinavia, on the Ural and the Altai ranges, etc., and also on the Alps and the Pyrenees. The winter plumage is pure white, except a black band above the eyes of the male, and some black on the under feathers of the tail. In both sexes the wings are always white, but have dark shafts to their quills. In summer the males are predominantly grayish brown above, with blackish head, shoulders, and breast, with white belly, with black tail-feathers tipped with white. In the female a tawny color predominates. In autumn, again the plumage is different, with numerous streaks of slate gray on the upper parts. The white winter plumage is doubtless protective amid the snow, and may be the result of the cold; the summer plumage is not less harmonious with the surroundings.

Ptarmigan. White Game, Or Grouse. in Gaelic, Ptarmichan. Figure 28. [top]

Varioud bird eggs

Rich as is the plumage of the Red Grouse, with its beautiful markings, and warm sienna tint, which prevails throughout every part except the snowy legs, yet we are inclined to give the preference to this, its close relative, for elegance of appearance. It is all over of a pure delicate white, except just the points of the toes, the larger tail feathers, the bill, and a patch on each side of the head, which surrounds the eye, all of black; there is also, as in every other species of Grouse with which we are acquainted, a semicircular patch, like a piece of crimson velvet over each eye. The edges of the white feathers are delicately pencilled, as we see them in the Silver Pheasant, so that they appear perfectly distinct from each other. This is the winter dress, according well with the snowy regions which the bird chiefly inhabits. In summer the plumage in parts becomes brown and yellowish grey of different shades; this dress also assimilating well with the lichen-covered rocks of those Alpine solitudes where the Ptarmigan must be sought. With us it is found only in the Grampians, and others of the Scottish mountains; there it dwells in seldom-disturbed security, feeding upon such plants as grow in these elevated places, in winter descending lower, to obtain a better supply of food, but never venturing into the plain.

Its eggs, which vary from seven to twelve in number, are sometimes laid on the bare earth, under the shadow of a rock or some plant; their colour is white, with sometimes a green, yellow, or reddish tinge; they are blotted and spotted with dark brown. The laying does not commence until June; incubation lasts three weeks. The young at first feed on insects.

The scientific name of this bird is Tetrao lagopus, the meaning of which has already been explained, and Lagopus vulgaris, that is, common, or mutus—changeable, in allusion to the variation in the colour of the plumage.