The ptarmigans on the Schneehüenerstock
From the name of a mountain you can often deduce what it is like: the Weisshorn is covered with snow or ice, the Rothorn glows pink at dusk and the Schwarzhorn is forested or made of dark rocks. And the Schneehüenerstock?
The Rock Ptarmigan
Ptarmigan live on the Schneehüenerstock - and also on the rest of the peaks of Andermatt, Sedrun and Disentis. The rock ptarmigan is an unusual bird because it wears a winter coat in winter. This is white, denser than the brown summer coat and even covers the toes. This keeps the feet warm and at the same time the bird sinks less into the snow. At temperatures above 15 degrees, the ptarmigan is too warm and retreats to shady places. In the snow, however, it feels perfectly at home. The ptarmigan digs snow holes in which it sleeps and into which it retreats when it gets too cold.
If you go off the marked slopes, you may find yourself in the habitat of the rock ptarmigan. The ptarmigan trusts its camouflage and, when you get close to it, it will stand rigidly in the snow for a long time. Its pulse drops sharply, it holds its breath and listens intently. Only at the last moment does it flee. Then its pulse shoots up and it flies downwards in a gliding flight with its typical creaking sound. This flight means great effort and exposure to cold, which leads to a great loss of energy. We therefore ask you to observe the wildlife rest areas, they offer valuable retreat opportunities for our wild animals.
By the way, the Schneehüenerstock has two names. Some call it "Unghürstöckli". Yes, that's right, it comes from monster. Why is that? Ask the locals. Or would you like to find out for yourself?
Sources: Schweizerische Vogelwarte and association «Natur & Freizeit».