February’s bird of the month is the Ptarmigan Lagopus muta
UK conservation status: Green
Lagopus means hare-foot, which describes their feathery legs. Ptarmigan comes from the Scottish Gaelic ‘tarmachan’, meaning to croak. The ‘p’ was added later in the mistaken idea that the name had a Greek origin.
They are found across arctic and sub-arctic regions. In the UK ptarmigans live on mountains in the Scottish Highlands. Their feathers turn white in winter to camouflage them against the snow. In summer, the feathers remain white below but are brown and black above, as camouflage amongst the rocky mountainside. The males have bright red eye-patches.
Kerrie Curzon, Collections Assistant and Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences