eWestern BirdsThe Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists
Vol. 46, No. 3
Western Field Ornithologists
History and Status of the White-tailed Ptarmigan in New Mexico
Clait E. Braun and Sartor O. Williams III
ABSTRACT: We reviewed the literature and observations of the occurrence and status of the White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) in New Mexico. Historical reports were infrequent, likely because of an inadequate system for recording observations from the public, although by 1928 biologists had a good understanding of the distribution and status of the species in the state. By 1980, ptarmigan persisted in small numbers in the northern portion of the New Mexico range but were uncommon or absent in the southern portion of the range, prompting a transplant of White-tailed Ptarmigan from Colorado into the southern area in 1981. Following that successful transplant, observations initially increased and subsequently continued at a relatively low level with most reports coming from the southern portion but including others from throughout the historical range. White-tailed Ptarmigan are localized in suitable habitats, but their abundance in New Mexico may be affected by the decreasing size of alpine snowfields in summer, grazing in areas dominated by willow (Salix spp.), and the shift to a warmer and drier climate.