Figure 26. The introduced White-tailed Ptarmigan has adapted to life in the high Sierra Nevada. This female was photographed in August 2003 near Virginia Pass in Mono County (Bob Steele).

White-tailed Ptarmigan

WHITE-TAILED PTARMIGAN Lagopus leucura (Richardson, 1831)


Accepted: NA; the establishment of an introduced population is affirmed

Not accepted: NA

CBRC review: NA

Not submitted/reviewed: NA

Color image: none

This bird’s natural range extends from central Alaska, northern Yukon, and southwestern Northwest Territories south to central Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Montana, with disjunct populations in Colorado and northern New Mexico. Introduced populations are established in California and Utah. The outcome of introduction attempts in Oregon is unknown.

As summarized by Roberson (1993), 73 White-tailed Ptarmigan from Colorado were released into the central Sierra Nevada as a game species between August 1971 and September 1972, and by 1993 California’s population was estimated at 1800 birds. In accepting CBRC record 1980-231, the Committee affirmed that this population met the CBRC’s criteria for placing an introduced species on the California Bird List (see Section VI (B)(8) of the CBRC Bylaws, page A-4 in Appendix A).

Gaines (1988) published a California photograph of a White-tailed Ptarmigan and characterized the species’ range in the state as extending from at least Matterhorn Peak and Mt. Hoffman in Tuolumne and Mono Counties south to the Ritter Range in Madera County. Clarke and Johnson (1990, 1992) and Frederick and Gutiérrez (1992) provided additional information on this species’ ecology in California.