Willow Grouse is found in northern Eurasia and North America. In Finland, the occurrence of this species of game bird is concentrated in Northern and Central Finland, and the population is strongest in the north. Willow Grouse is the provincial bird of Southern Lapland. It has been called the bird of life in the north because it used to be an important source of livelihood. In the Arctic-Alpine life zone and the riverside areas of northern Lapland snares are used to catch Willow Grouse. The Willow Grouse population has declined in recent years, especially in Southern Finland, and hunting has been restricted in many areas. Willow Grouse is classified as a vulnerable bird species in the most recent conservation status assessment. Changes in living conditions due to climate change have been cited as one of the reasons for the decline. As the period when there is snow on the ground is becoming shorter, the Willow Grouse may not be able to change their white winter plumage for a more protective summer suit in time.
At present, it is estimated that there are about 80 000 breeding pairs in Finland. The species is known for its special sound and the fact that the species often sleeps burrowed under snow. The Willow Grouse can be confused with the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), but its creaking call is completely different from that of the Willow Grouse. In addition, the Rock Ptarmigan, unlike the Willow Grouse, only live in the treeless tops of fells. The Willow Grouse population fluctuates widely and occasionally they invade Finland from Russia.
Text: Jukka Jokimäki & Marja-Liisa Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki
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Flying Arctic -frontpage.