A pair of willow ptarmigan paused for the camera last week in Southcentral Alaska. Members of the grouse family, willow ptarmigan began pairing up at least a month ago.

The birds have now entered a territorial phase where males – identified by chocolate-colored heads and necks, and scarlet eye combs – vigilantly guard their hens and particular nesting grounds from competitors. Hens remain less vividly colored and in coming days will turn a mottled brown to perfectly blend in to the cover where they will hunker over their eggs.

This image was shot in morning light with a Canon 7D Mark II at f / 5.6, 1/1000 second, ISO 250.

Check out more images like this one on my new website at www.wildcountryreflections.com geared toward my nature photography and complete with online store and contact information.

— km

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