Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura)


French: Lagopède à queue blanche German: Weißschwanz-Schneehuhn Spanish: Lagópodo coliblanco

Tetrao (Lagopus) leucurus


, 1831,

Rocky Mountains, latitude 54° N


Validity of all races doubtful, as much variation appears clinal#R. Molecular data reveal constant pattern of isolation by distance, large areas of unsuitable habitat perhaps acting as barriers to gene flow; despite naturally broken distribution, populations do not fit common definition of metapopulation#R. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. l. peninsularis Chapman, 1902 – mountains in S Alaska S to Kenai Peninsula (NW USA) and in Yukon and Northwest Territories (W Canada).
  • L. l. leucura (Richardson, 1831) – Rocky Mts in British Columbia and SW Alberta (SW Canada).
  • L. l. saxatilis Cowan, 1939 – Vancouver I.
  • L. l. rainierensis Taylor, 1920 – Cascade Range, in Washington (W USA).
  • L. l. altipetens Osgood, 1901 – Rocky Mts from Montana to N New Mexico (WC USA).
  • Introduced (altipetens) in parts of Oregon, California, Colorado and Utah. Reintroduced into New Mexico.

    Descriptive notes

    31–34 cm; male 326–1300 g, female 358–840 g; mass of males increases from Sept until late Apr and then decreases during spring. Only Lagopus with... read more


    Both sexes give ‘flight scream’, a series of “ku-ku-KII KIIER” notes... read more


    Alpine tundra; in Alaska, typically on steep slopes and ridges, often around cirques, with numerous... read more

    Food and feeding

    In Alaska, where competes with the other two Lagopus, much of winter food consists of alder catkins (Alnus); willow (... read more


    Lays May–Jul, with relative winter snow depth and temperatures strongly influencing nest initiation and hatching dates, and mean... read more


    Only limited altitudinal movements in winter, when species generally forms single-sex flocks (young... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Race saxatilis listed as Vulnerable in Canada, although most recent data from its small range, on Vancouver I, indicate that... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 December 2019).