Murie, Olaus J. (1959) FAUNA OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS AND ALASKA PENINSULA, 1936-38, U.S. Dept. Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington. pg. 122
Willow Ptarmigan: Lagopus lagopus
Aleut: Alladek (Wetmore)
The willow ptarmigan, distributed throughout the Alaska Peninsula, is represented by two races, L. 1. alascensis and L. I. muriei. Gabrielson and Lincoln (1949) referred the subspecies on the Alaska Peninsula proper to alascensis, as distinct from the races on nearby islands.
Alaska willow ptarmigan were observed at the west end of the Alaska Peninsula in 1925. About the middle of May, the males were strutting and crowing in a lively fashion at Izembek Bay. On June 14, very few females were seen. Evidently, they were incubating, because on June 22 I found a nest of nine eggs, pipped, ready to hatch, and late in July there were broods of young on the marsh at Moffet Bay.
Concerning the boldness of males at this time, I find the following in my field notes for June 3 :
The female was sulking among the alder stems on the shore of a pond and I stood on a rise nearby. The male rushed between me and his mate, growling, puffing out his chest, and elevating his combs. He was a splendid bird as he strutted, following his mate as she sneaked along in the brush but keeping out in the open himself, evidently to attract attention away from the female. I was within 15 feet of him at times.
On July 3, Donald Stevenson watched a pair of ptarmigan protesting the approach of a brown bear. The bear had been walking across a gentle slope toward the mountains and evidently had disturbed a brood of young birds. Both parents were pretending to be crippled before the huge intruder. The bear made several lunges at the birds, but finally continued on its way.
Lagopus lagopus muriei
Aleut: Alladak (Wetmore)
This ptarmigan occurs on Kodiak Island, Unga, Nagai, Little Koniuji, Simeonof, and Popof Islands of the Shumagins, and Atka, Unalaska, and Unimak of the Aleutians.
This willow ptarmigan was described by Gabrielson and Lincoln in 1949, as follows: ''As comparedwith L. /. alascensis, this race is much redder and darker when skins in comparable plumages are compared. L. /. alascensis is buffy; the new race, muriei, more reddish and darker, near walnut brown, while alexandrae [of Baranof and adjacent islands] is dark brown to bister."
As to distribution, they commented: "Somewhat to our surprise, all birds from Morzhovoi Bay, only a few miles across from False Pass, certainly belonged to alascensis, while those from Unimak Island just as definitely belonged to the island group (muriei)."
Beals and Longworth (field report, 1941) reported numerous ptarmigans on Unimak from February 26 to April 10, in flocks of 25 to 300 birds. They noted, on March 6, at False Pass as follows: "Large flocks of 300 or more birds each flew about the alders back of the cannery. We saw several flocks of 75 to 100 birds in Sourdough Flats and vicinity the same day." On March 24, they reported "ptarmigan by the hundreds" in the valley back of False Pass. On March 31, at Ikatan Valley, they saw 3 flocks of 100 birds each, and saw numerous groups of 10 to 15 birds. On April 2, at Sourdough Flats, they reported, "Flock after flock of 100 to 150 or more each all through this area. The flocks kept moving ahead of us until several thousand ptarmigans were gathered in one large brood across the valley floor. It looked and sounded like a gigantic chicken ranch." On April 10, at False Pass, a flock of "several hundred" were noted; the males were "reddish brown about the head and shoulders."
During field work on Unimak Island in May, 1925, I found these ptarmigan common in the lowlands and on the middle slopes of the mountains. On April 30, I saw three males that had acquired much of the brown plumage, but on May 4 the females that I observed were still mostly white, though speckled with brown. On May 5, I saw one male in almost complete summer plumage.
An interesting incident occurred on May 19, 1925, at St. Catherine Cove. I was about ready to leave my cabin, when the clattering call of a male willow ptarmigan sounded close by. The call was followed by a light patter on the floor of an adjoining shed. Before going into the shed to investigate, I glanced out the window and saw a peregrine falcon. In the shed, I found a cock ptarmigan that ran out through the open door, only to return almost at once. But my presence proved too much for him, and he finally bolted out through the open door and, with lusty crowing, took flight and disappeared over a rise. By this time, the falcon was some distance away.