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Re: Bambiraptor complete!
Coincidentally, I got the following today from the eNature Observer, regarding _Lagopus lagopus_. Note the last paragraph for how this bird uses its long feathers. (See more at http://www.enature.com.)
Volume 101, January 22, 2002
Fleet Feather Feet
© Gregory J. Winston
Like Cher or Elton John, it's almost constantly changing its appearance. Depending on the time of year, it can be rusty brown or grayish buff or pure white or some combination of these colors. The shifts coincide with the changing seasons.
The creature in question is the Willow Ptarmigan, a small tundra grouse that molts to match its rugged northern surroundings. In fact, the latter half of its name comes from a Gaelic word for "mountaineer." As for the first half, it refers to the bird's winter diet, which consists largely of twigs from willow and alder trees.
The ptarmigan negotiates the difficult terrain of places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with the help of long feathers that cover its feet and function as snowshoes. Without these feathers, the bird would likely sink into areas of soft snow. Yet when it's time to sleep, the ptarmigan doesn't walk; it dives beak-first deep into snow drifts. The snow protects the bird from bitterly cold winds, and the diving means that there are no tracks or scent trail for a predator like the Arctic Fox to follow.