Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers from the USofA. As today is Bird’s Day Thursday, it’s natural to consider that avian symbol of this feast day, the turkey.
Turkeys don’t reach anywhere close to Alaska, however. Another member of the order is, however, the State Bird – the willow ptarmigan. Common to abundant in our tundra; we easily can find these large grouses as close as a few minutes away, as soon as we’re out of the taiga spruce and into tundra vegetation. On one occasion, a few Decembers ago, we had some ptarmigan show up on Swan Lake, but I don’t expect that to recur.
Here is a courtship pair in mid-May. Neither bird has completed the transition from wearing full-white winter plumage to the wonderfully cryptic summer feathering.
Here, another mid-May cock, on the left, is actively stalking a hen on the right.
By mid-October, the birds have regained their full-white feathering, other than some minuscule color near the eye.