The Willow Ptarmigan is Alaska’s State Bird but I photographed him (and a few hers) in the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada in mid-June. This is a large bird that stands out because of his size (chicken size), color (white in winter and rust and white in the summer), and his attention-getting call which sounds like it came from an episode of Star Wars, not the wild Arctic tundra. We called him “Jim Bob” because on a previous trip with Moose Peterson another photographer couldn’t remember the confusing and hard to pronounce name (the “p” in Ptarmigan is silent) so the bird was dubbed “Jim Bob” to make things easier. Whenever we heard his unique call, we would all shout “there’s Jim Bob!”
For a taste of what we heard every day in Churchill, click the arrow below.
The Arctic tundra is a unique mix of orange lichens and moss and glacier carved rocks and even miniature wild azaleas. Here’s Jim Bob in his native Arctic setting.