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Churchill River - Cold comfort

How the tiny ptarmigan survives winter

More on the Churchill River:
Churchill River:
The price of power

Cold comfort:
How the tiny ptarmigan survives winter

Low-level fright:
Fighter planes buzz the caribou herds

Life in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Home Page:
The battered Innu culture strives to recover

The Lonely Season:
Traditional bush life in Labrador

Mega Water:
Churchill Falls generating station

The willow ptarmigan does not migrate to warmer weather in winter. Instead, this tiny member of the grouse family has evolved a set of unique features that allow it to survive the harsh Labrador winter.

Its pure-white winter plumage is excellent camouflage against the snow. The bird's nostrils are protected from the freezing cold by a cover of feathers. It even grows feather snowshoes that give it enough stability to tug small branches from beneath the snow.

The willow ptarmigan burrows into the snow for two good reasons: to benefit from the insulation against cold air, and to hide from predators.

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