The Ptarmingan Bird undergoes remarkable plumage changes with the seasons, in order to have the optimum camouflage for local conditions. In winter the plumage is completely white with a black tail, the male only showing black lores. In spring, Ptarmingan bird acquires a rather dark grey head, neck and breast, with the remaining upperparts gradually becoming grey, vermiculated black, which in late summer becomes a little blotchy and paler, and with a red wattle over the eye. The Ptarmingan Bird (female) in spring assumes a more yellow-toned plumage, brown spotted with black, buff and white, starting with the head and breast and gradually extending over the remaining upperparts. At all seasons the wings are white.
Ptarmingan Bird is found on high mountains on rocky barren tops, typically above 800m in Scotland, although their favoured altitude decreases inversely to latitude, so in Iceland one can encounter them at sea level. Conversely, in southern populations, such as in the Alps, they only occur well above the tree line. Notably confiding, although well camouflaged, Ptarmigan bird can be reluctant to fly and are often startled at close range, when they either fly or scuttle away from the observer, calling as they go.
Some very distinctive cackling and grating calls. The Ptarmingan Bird (male) has a display flight in spring, in which he flies up and then glides down on stiff wings, uttering a hoarse belching and cackling, often finishing in a rolling cackle "aerr-eh-rrgk'gk'gk'gk'gk'r'r'r" or "ahrr-arr-ka-ka-kh-kh-kh-k". Other calls include "arr orr ka-karrr", usually delivered from the ground, as is a shorter "arr-urrr". An alarm note is a short "kwa", and the female also gives a soft, nervous little "kee-a" or "ey-eh" when shepherding chicks.