Tateyama, one of the three sacred ridges of Japan, and the mountain where ancient gods stands, is also home to some 300, or one tenth of all Japanese Ptarmigans in the Northern Alps Area. The center of this flock can be found in Murodo, the highest point on the Tateyama Alpen Route.
The spring mating season
Although around all year round, they are best watched between April and July when they stand out of the white snow, rugged rocks and Japanese stone pine shurbs. They are also much easier to spot when males call for mates, a characteristic Koo-koo sound.
Around Lake Mikurigaike, every male from the flock maintain their own territories, where females from the hillside visit once snow starts to melt in April to form couples. During April when the Alpen Route opens, females are still white while males tend to start gaining brown feathers, a way to camouflage themselves.
Their primary territories in Murodo, the Japanese stone pine canopies, are most abundant around the Mukurigaike Hotspring (For example, Right below the Terrace), near the Midorigaike Lake across the hill, on the footpaths linking Hotel Tateyama and Tengudaira, and Mt Murodo.
Considered gods’ messengers, they had been protected by humans for century and are therefore not afraid of tourists at all, but please leave them alone!
During Summer, look for misty days
During July and August, when Alpine plants flourishes, female ptarmigans can be seen carrying their chicks.
They belong to the bottom of the Alpine food chain and tend to come out of their protection during early mornings, late night and misty days.
The easiest way to get instant access is to stay overnight in Hotel Tateyama, Mikurigaike Onsen and Tateyama Murodo Sanso. If you stay two nights, they are hard to miss.
The Ptarmigan population in the Japanese Alps are believed to have came from the continent 20000 years ago when Japan was once connected to the mainland via the Northern land bridge that connected Hokkaido and Northern Honshu to what is now Russia’s Primorskaya Oblast. When the Ice age gradually ended, they moved up, and stayed there ever since.
The designated Special natural monument （Lagopus mutus japonicus）is also known to be the southernmost population of Ptarmigans in the Northern Hemisphere.
Special Thanks / Toyama Tourism Bureau, Takeyama Kurobe Kankou, Hotel Tateyama, Mikurigaike Onsen
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