Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)


French: Lagopède des saules German: Moorschneehuhn Spanish: Lagópodo común
Other common names: Willow Ptarmigan, Irish Red Grouse (hibernica)

Tetrao lagopus


, 1758,

Swedish Lapland


Internal taxonomy confused due to complicated plumage sequence, and based mainly on colour and pattern of summer plumages. Many races often lumped, although in very varied ways: nominate sometimes considered to include many others from Scandinavia to SE Canada; races of SE Siberia often lumped; and also those of Nearctic. Other proposed races include septentrionalis (Taz Delta) and dybowskii (S Yakutia). Endangered race hibernica often lumped into scotica, but has subtle plumage differences and different habitat#R. Race scotica (with hibernica) differs in its brown vs white wings (3), but absence of a white winter plumage shared with certain insular populations of variegata#R (see also HBW) (ns), although some significant genetic structuring separates Scottish and Scandinavian populations#R#R. Has possibly hybridized with L. muta in Sweden#R. Twenty subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. l. hibernica (O. Kleinschmidt, 1919) – Ireland and W Scotland (Outer Hebrides).
  • L. l. scotica (Latham, 1787) – Red Grouse – Britain.
  • L. l. variegata Salomonsen, 1936 – islands off Trondheim, SW Norway.
  • L. l. lagopus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Willow Grouse – Scandinavia, Finland, N European Russia.
  • L. l. rossica Serebrovski, 1926 – Baltic countries and C Russia E to Kama Basin.
  • L. l. birulai Serebrovski, 1926 – New Siberian Is.
  • L. l. koreni Thayer & Bangs, 1914 – Siberia from Urals and Yamal Peninsula E to Pacific, S to Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yakutsk and N coast of Sea of Okhotsk.
  • L. l. maior T. K. Lorenz, 1904 – SE European Russia, N Kazakhstan and SW Siberia E to Altai foothills.
  • L. l. brevirostris Hesse, 1912 – Altai Mts and Sayan Mts.
  • L. l. kozlowae Portenko, 1931 – W Mongolia (in Tannu-Ola, Khangai and Kentei Mts) and S Russia (E Tuva).
  • L. l. sserebrowsky Domaniewski, 1933 – E Siberia from L Baikal and NE Mongolia E to Sea of Okhotsk, S to Khingan Mts (NE China) and Sikhote-Alin Mts.
  • L. l. kamtschatkensis Momiyama, 1928 – Kamchatka and N Kuril Is.
  • L. l. okadai Momiyama, 1928 – Sakhalin I.
  • L. l. muriei Gabrielson & Lincoln, 1949 – E Aleutian Is and Kodiak I.
  • L. l. alexandrae Grinnell, 1909 – Alaska Peninsula, coastal islands and adjacent mainland of SE Alaska and NW British Columbia.
  • L. l. alascensis Swarth, 1926 – most of mainland Alaska.
  • L. l. leucoptera Taverner, 1932 – islands of N Canada (Banks, Victoria, Southampton, Baffin) and nearby mainland.
  • L. l. alba (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – NC Canada from N Yukon and C British Columbia to Hudson Bay.
  • L. l. ungavus Riley, 1911 – N Quebec and N Labrador (E Canada).
  • L. l. alleni Stejneger, 1884 – Newfoundland.
  • Descriptive notes

    36–43 cm; male 535–900 g, female 410–750 g. Rusty brown in summer, with white wings, belly and legs, and black tail; redder than similar L. muta... read more


    In display at communal leks, males take flight and emit a series of nasal barks, typically a few... read more


    Primarily Arctic tundra, extending S in alpine mountain ranges and along or below treeline, in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Heavily dependent on willow, especially during winter, e.g. in Alaska, 94% willow buds and twigs, including 80% Salix alaxensis;... read more


    Lays mostly May–Jun; Apr–May in British Is; second half of Jun in N Siberia. Monogamous; male guards incubating female and even... read more


    Sedentary in some places, e.g. in N England, Scotland and Scandinavia, where only short-range... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and common to abundant throughout most of very extensive range. Nevertheless, some range contractions have been detected... read more

    Recommended citation

    de Juana, E., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus). 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 6 December 2019).