Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce Fir
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains

    White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus)

    Associated Species: Other species using similar alpine habitats include American Pipit, Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, and Horned Lark.

    Distribution: White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabit alpine areas from the southern Rocky Mountains in New Mexico north to Alaska and Northwest Territories (Braun et al. 1993). Introduced into Sierra Nevada mountains in California, Uinta Mountains in Utah, Wallowa Mountains in Oregon (Braun et al. 1993). In Colorado, White-tailed Ptarmigan inhabit all mountain ranges with suitable alpine habitats, including Pikes' Peak, where it was introduced in 1975 (Braun 1971, Hoffman and Giesen 1983). While typically found in habitats at or above treelimit, this species typically is found in willow-dominated habitats at lower elevations in winter.

    Habitat Requirements: White-tailed Ptarmigan breed in alpine habitats at or above treelimit and having krummholz or willow dominated vegetation situated near snowfields and rocky areas (Braun et al. 1993). Nest sites are located in snowfree areas in rocky areas or near willow or spruce krummholz. In summer males and broods are often found near receding snowfields and rocky areas at higher elevations. In winter this species occupies willow-dominated basins or riparian areas at or below treeline where snow is available for roosting.

    Ecology: White-tailed Ptarmigan arrive on breeding territories in late April or May and nesting is initiated in June. Breeding densities are typically 1-5 pairs/km2 . Dispersal of juveniles and migration to wintering sites occurs in September-October. Adults are long-lived and have high philopatry to breeding and wintering areas (Giesen and Braun 1992, Braun et al. 1993). The diet of ptarmigan is varied and primarily comprised of vegetation, especially leaves, buds, and twigs of willow (May and Braun 1972).

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Excessive grazing by domestic livestock and wildlife, mining, reservoir development, winter recreation, and road building have all negatively impacted alpine habitats, especially critical wintering areas (Braun et al. 1976). Management should emphasize light grazing by both domestic livestock and wild ungulates, total exclusion of off-road vehicles and snowmobiles except on maintained roads, proper engineering of mine sites, and careful evaluation of proposed roads, water storage reservoirs, ski developments, and other recreational and commercial developments for potential impacts on ptarmigan (Braun 1980). Recreational use of alpine areas and manipulation of alpine watersheds for water development can be expected to increase as Colorado's population increases.

    Reasons for Concern: This species occupies a unique habitat and is representative of many other species in this habitat type.

    Biological Objective: Maintain current population levels and distribution of White-tailed Ptarmigan in alpine areas of Colorado, as based on results of CDOW and other monitoring programs.

    Habitat Objectives: Protect alpine areas from further disturbance and development. Wintering habitats are especially critical to ptarmigan populations and need to be identified and protected from disturbance or destruction (Braun et al. 1976).

    Selected References: Braun 1980, Braun et al. 1976, Braun et al. 1993, Giesen and Braun 1992, May and Braun 1972.

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