One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A northern grouse of mountainous and Arctic regions, with feathered legs and feet and plumage that typically changes to white in winter.
Genus Lagopus, family Tetraonidae: two species, in particular the (rock) ptarmigan (L. mutus) of Eurasia and North America
- ‘In winter, the ptarmigan is covered by a pure white mass of feathers which blend seamlessly with snow.’
- ‘The biologist and writer Julian Huxley, grandson of Darwin's great friend and supporter Thomas Henry Huxley, thought that the white plumage of the male ptarmigan might distract a predator away from the female.’
- ‘Willow ptarmigan, rock ptarmigan and spruce grouse are a few of the ground-dwelling birds.’
- ‘Most game birds are also galliforms, including grouse, partridges, pheasants, quails, ptarmigans, and wild turkeys.’
- ‘In ‘Savings in a Snowbank’, Peter Marchand notes that ptarmigans and grouse often take refuge under a blanket of snow on cold nights, having ‘caught on to a trick no others use.’’
Late 16th century: from Scottish Gaelic tàrmachan. The spelling with p- was introduced later, suggested by Greek words starting with pt-.
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