The ptarmigan

The ptarmigan lives above the timberline: in grasslands with small shrubs interspersed with rocks and detritus. In late summer and early autumn it goes as far as the moraines and gravel bars at the edge of snow-fields and glaciers, even as high as 3000 m.
The species is characterized by a wingspan of 55-60 cm, and a plumage which is completely white in winter except for the tail feathers which remain black in both sexes; in summer, on the contrary, the male turns a greyish-brown colour, and the female is reddish-brown. It mainly feeds on legumes and other highly digestible dicotyledons.
Nesting has been confirmed in every valley of the park, from 2200 m up to 2900 m. It is a difficult species to find, but during summer months on high altitude it's easy to sight the ptarmigan in flight during morning or evening excursions.

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Photo: Stefano Andretta