Even though there is a running joke that the state bird of Alaska is the mosquito because of its very high mosquito population, that is obviously not the case. In reality, the state bird of Alaska is the Willow ptarmigan. This is a beautiful bird that was adopted as the state bird in 1955. At that time, Alaska was a territory, it was not yet a state. Alaska was getting ready to apply for statehood, and schoolchildren in the state voted on what they wanted the state bird to be. It is actually included in the constitution, and the willow ptarmigan was adopted as the official bird of the territory. It became the state bird when Alaska was accepted as the 49th state in 1960.
The willow ptarmigan is a common sight in Alaska. It is relatively easy to spot one as long as people know what they look like. The willow ptarmigan can actually change its appearance because of camouflage. It uses camouflage to protect itself against predators. During the summer, the willow ptarmigan is light brown in appearance. These colors work well as it tries to blend in with the background and hide from its predators. Then, the plumage will actually change during the winter. Because snow is almost always on the ground in Alaska during the winter, the white feathers make it easier for it to blend in with the background, allowing it to hide from predators.
The Willow ptarmigan is also a very friendly bird. It can be seen socializing with other birds of the same species, particularly as they feed. They also tend to huddle together in the snow to transfer heat to one another, allowing themselves to stay warm. Then, during the spring, they travel to specific locations to breed. It is not unusual to see flocks numbering several thousand in total. During the summer, the flocks spread apart as the male birds try to find room to forage in the tundra. Of note, it is actually the male Willow ptarmigans that are responsible for raising the young. This is very different when compared to other bird populations.
Even though this bird is commonly associated with the state of Alaska, it can be found in a wide variety of other areas as well. Even though this bird is relatively rare in the continental United States, it is commonly found throughout Canada. This bird is also frequently spotted in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The Willow ptarmigan has also been spotted in Russia. Of note, this bird is also closely associated with the red grouse, which is closely tied to Scotland and has an important spot in its history. The Willow ptarmigan has an important spot in American history, and schoolchildren in Alaska continue to learn about the importance of this bird to this day.