Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan listed as threatened by climate change – The Seattle Times

The Mount Rainier white-tailed ptarmigan — found atop the Cascades from Canada to southern Washington — is officially listed as a threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
The ptarmigan are about a foot long and weigh just a pound. They’re threatened by the dwindling mountain snowpack, brought on by climate change and our continued reliance on fossil fuels. The small birds spend their entire lives on top of the mountains.
That degrading habitat “will endanger the bird in the foreseeable future,” pushing them out of the environment to which they’re accustomed, Fish and Wildlife officials said in a news release. 
Snowpack across the Cascades (and much of the American West) is diminishing as global temperatures creep higher and higher. Precipitation is increasingly falling as rain instead of snow, creating a suite of different problems throughout the region. 
Smaller amounts of meltwater from the shrinking snowpack, disappearing glaciers and a rising tree line combine to mean the ptarmigans are likely to lose up to 95% of their habitat in the coming decades.
Listing the ptarmigans as threatened unlocks federal funding that can be used to further research and protect the species.
The listing is also years in the making. The Center for Biological Diversity initially petitioned Fish and Wildlife in 2010 to protect the ptarmigans under the Endangered Species Act and then sued the service last year, alleging it missed a crucial deadline during the listing process. 
About 1,000 of the ptarmigans are estimated to remain in Washington. They’re a monogamous species and females generally lay a clutch of five to seven eggs. They’re part of the grouse family and one of the few animals that spend their entire lives at high altitude, the release said.
The listing follows the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and serves as “an alarm bell but also a call to action,” the release said.
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