THE SVALBARD PTARMIGAN

 

The Svalbard ptarmigan is a subspecies of the smaller ptarmigan found in mainland Norway and mountainous areas of Europe, and is found only on Svalbard and Franz Josef Land in Arctic Russia. This bird is the toughest and most loyal bird on Svalbard, where it spends the winter in the Arctic cold. Svalbard ptarmigans are especially beautiful in their white winter plumage, while in summer they are hard to spot with their grizzly camouflage.

Copyright: Roy MangersnesIn winter the Svalbard Ptarmigan turns completely white, except for the black feathers between the beak and the eye. Copyright: Roy Mangersnes

Up to 40 % of the ptarmigan body weight in late autumn is fat. Around 1st of July the Svalbard ptarmigan only weighs about half of what it does in early winter. This show how energy demanding winter and courtship season is.

The Svalbard ptarmigan is the only land bird that is in Svalbard all year round. It is able to reduce its energy expenditure by 16% from summer to winter.

A single male ptarmigan can have a harem of several females within its territory.

The white feathers of the ptarmigan is extra insulating as they are air filled.

The ptarmigan can shut down the blood stream to their feet. Something which is very useful during winter, as the feet are an important source to heat loss.

In extreme weather the birds let themselves snow down, so that they are surrounded by an insulating snow cavity.

The Svalbard ptarmigan is a subspecies endemic to Svalbard. That means it only exists in Svalbard, and no other places in the world.


Copyright: Roy MangersnesAlso in summer it is hard to spot the grizzly colored ptarmigan hiding in the vegetation. Copyright: Roy Mangersnes

Copyright: Roy MangersnesTerritorial display by a male ptarmigan in March. The Svalbard ptarmigan is the only bird species that spend the entire year on the archipelago. Copyright: Roy Mangersnes

Learn more about wildlife on Svalbard
The information on this webpage is from the Amazing Arctic book by Eirik Grønningsæter. If you want to learn more about the amazing Arctic wildlife, order a copy of the book.