The three species are all specialists of cold regions. Willow Grouse is a circumpolar boreal forest species, White-tailed Ptarmigan is an North American alpine bird, and Ptarmigan breeds in both Arctic and mountain habitats across Eurasia and North America. They are sedentary species, all, with the exception of the Red Grouse, having a white winter plumage that helps them blend into the snowy background
These are hardy vegetarian birds, but insects are also taken by the developing young. In all species except for the Willow Grouse, the female takes all responsibility for nesting and caring for the chicks, as is typical with gamebirds.
The genus name Lagopus is derived from Ancient Greek lagos (λαγως), meaning "hare", + pous (πους), "foot", in reference to the feathered feet and toes typical of this cold-adapted group (see also Snowshoe Hare). The species names muta and leucura were for a long time misspelt mutus and leucurus, in the erroneous belief that the ending of Lagopus denotes masculine gender. However, as the Ancient Greek term λαγωπους is of feminine gender, and the species name has to agree with that, the feminine muta is correct (David & Gosseiln 2002).