Weekly Puzzler Answer #132

Did you see the three birds in last week’s puzzler? They are the official bird of the state of Alaska–a fabulously camouflaged bird called a ptarmigan. (in pronouncing this the p is silent) They are the smallest member of the grouse family in North America.

birdWhile backpacking in Denali National Park we saw many ptarmigans–not because they are easy to see but because we were walking through their territory, right where they were and saw them because they moved. There were several occasions when I nearly stepped on one, not noticing it until the last second. They blend in perfectly with the lichen-covered rocks on the hillsides and unless they move, they are difficult to spot. Staying still and remaining undetected is their best defense against predators like fox, wolves, bobcats and hawks.

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Can you spot the ptarmigan in this photo?

Rock ptarmigan are one of three species of ptarmigan in Alaska.  They have the most amazing camouflage of any bird I have ever seen. In winter they are white so they blend in with the snow-covered landscape and in summer they are a mottled gray to blend in with the rocks.

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Ptarmigan have feathers that go all the way down to their feet–like boots or leg warmers!–to help them stay warm during the arctic winters. And in winter they will burrow deep into the snow to roost for the night and avoid predators. They eat plants, seeds and berries. Wondering what they could possibly eat during winter when the ground is covered with snow? They dig through the snow to find moss underneath. And, since their diet in winter is rather dry,  they actually eat snow! Lots and lots of snow! Just like kids. (or at least I ate snow when I was a kid. I can’t speak for kids these days.)

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So let’s check out the next puzzler–another one about an animal found in Alaska.

Have a fabulous weekend!! See you again soon.

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