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The Rock Ptarmigan (LAGOPUS MUTUS)
Offcial Bird of Nunavut
most other birds migrate south in the early fall, the RockPtarmigan
(Lagopus Mutus) is truly an arctic bird, living in Nunavut throughout
the year. Called Aqiggiq in Inuktitut, the rock ptarmigan is found
throughout the circumpolar world, earning a place in the art, folklore
and diet of indigenous peoples.
Distinct from most other birds with its three variations
of plumage instead of the usual two, the rock ptarmigan faces its
biggest challenge to survival in the winter, when snow and wind
conditions make good and shelter hard to find.
Camouflaged by its white winter plumage, the rock ptarmigan uses
its long black claws to scratch through the snow to reach buried
vegetation such as the low-lying purple saxifrage. Other characteristic
features of the bird mirror human adaptations to the harsh Arctic
surroundings. A black stripe from the corner of the bill and across
the eyes has been compared to a pair of Inuit snow goggles, a unique
invention to prevent snow blindness in the glare of the Arctic spring.
A rock ptarmigan's feet are feathered right down to the toes, keeping
it warm, and acting as a pair of feathery snowshoes to prevent the
bird from sinking into the snow. And, in the deep of winter, the
ptarmigan will use snow as a shelter, burrowing deep to escape the
bitter wind and indigenous predators such as the fox and marten.
Adaptations such as these have earned the rock ptarmigan its place
as an Arctic symbol-and as the official bird of Nunavut.><>