PTARMIGAN (Tetrao Lagopus). The bill of the ptarmigan is black ; the plumage of a pale brown or ash-colour, crossed with small dusky spots and minute bars; the gray colour predominates in the male, except on the head and neck, where there is a great mixture of red with bars of white; the whole plumage of the male is extremely elegant. The females and young birds have much rust-colour about them. In their winter dress — a pure white—they both agree, except that a black line occurs between the bill and the eye of the males; the shafts of the first seven quillfeathers are black; the tail consists of sixteen feathers, the two middle ones ash-coloured in summer, and white in winter; the two next slightly marked with white near the ends; the rest wholly black. The female lays eight or ten eggs, about the size of those of a pigeon, spotted with red brown, which, towards the end of May, she deposits on the ground in a stony situation. The feet are clothed with feathers to the very claws; and long thick hairs, similar to those seen in the hare, grow under the toes, on the sole: the nails are long, broad, and hollow ; the first guards them from the rigour of the winter, while the latter enables them to form a lodgment under the snow, where they sometimes lie in heaps, to avoid the severity of the cold. The ptarmigan prefers the loftiest situations, and is found in most of the northern states of Europe; in this country it is to be met with only in the Highlands of Scotland, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, and occasionally on the hills of Cumberland and Wales. As the snow melts on the sides of the mountains, it continues to ascend until it gains the summit, where perpetual winter reigns, and there forms holes, and burrows in the snow. Their food consists of mountain berries, the buds of trees, and cones of the pine. The ptarmigan is about the size of the common grouse, and resembles it much in flavour. In the winter they fly in flocks.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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