Willow Ptarmigan
(Lagopus lagopus)


Picture of bird
© Charles M. Francis, CWS
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Willow Ptarmigan is a widespread and abundant resident of subalpine, subarctic and arctic shrub habitats. Much of its range lies north of regularly surveyed areas, with the result that monitoring data are sparse and not wholly reliable. However, available results from the Christmas Bird Count suggest that the current population has undergone a moderate decrease since about 1970.


Listing of the main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least Concern2012 
Partners in Flight (North America)Stewardship List2012 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2010 

Population status

Geographic areaStatusReliability
CanadaModerate DecreaseLow

Population estimate

Canada5,000,000 to 50,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation of world population


Conservation and management

Willow Ptarmigan are harvested by sport- and subsistence-hunters, but much of the range is sparsely populated and high rates of reproduction and dispersal mean that the species is resilient to hunting pressure (Bergerud and Huxter 1969, Hannon et al. 1998). Threats from development, although potentially locally significant, are unlikely to result in widespread decline because the majority of the range is remote and undeveloped. Climate change scenarios predict an increase in the abundance of shrub habitats (ACIA 2005), which may benefit the species.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type