Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Locally common in alpine tundra.
HABITAT: Inhabits rocky tundra areas with sparse vegetation in high mountains. Breeds in territories adjacent to spruce-willow alpine timberline zone (krummholz) and also small windblown areas. Males tend to winter above tree line adjacent to breeding areas where wind prevents complete coverage of woody shrubs; females tend to winter in basins and drainages that are not as windblown and somewhat removed from tundra.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Alpine tundra.
NEST: Nests on the ground in areas that become snowfree early in June and are somewhat protected from wind, such as under small shrubs or next to rocks larger than 6 inches. Females locate their nests near the fringe of a male's breeding territory, but more importantly, near brooding areas where vegetation is short and rocks 6 inches or larger cover more than 50 percent of the ground surface.
FOOD: During summer, primarily consumes seeds and leaves of smartweeds, sedges, clover, and willow; also takes various green leaves, flowers, and some insects. During winter in Colorado, consumes willow primarily, alder secondarily. In Alaska, consumes alder catkins primarily, willow and birch secondarily.
REFERENCES: Braun 1969; Braun in Farrand 1983a; Braun and Rogers 1971; Johnsgard 1973, 1983a; May and Braun 1972; Weeden 1967.