Tundra Swan – Profile | Traits | Facts | Call | Diet | Breeding

Tundra Swan

Known by many in North America because the Whistling Swan, the Tundra Swan is a big, white bird, with a long neck held straight up. It has a black bill with yellow patches in front of its eyes, though the yellow just isn’t at all times present.

The juvenile is grey with a pink bill and black legs, nevertheless it turns whiter by way of the winter due to steady molting. Males and females look alike.

Physical Description

C. columbianus is the smallest of the Holarctic swans, at 115–150 cm (45–59 in) in size, 168–211 cm (66–83 in) in wingspan, and a weight range of 3.4–9.6 kg (7.5–21.2 lb).

In adult birds, the plumage of each subspecies is solely white, with black feet, and a bill that’s largely black, with a skinny salmon-pink streak working alongside the mouthline and – relying on the subspecies – more or much less yellow within the proximal half.

The iris is darkish brown. In birds dwelling in waters that include giant quantities of iron ions (e.g. lavatory lakes), the pinnacle and neck plumage acquires a golden or rusty hue. Pens (females) are barely smaller than cobs (males) however don’t differ in look in any other case.

Tundra swans have high-pitched honking calls and sound much like a black goose (Branta). They are notably vocal when foraging in flocks on their wintering grounds; any conspecific arriving or leaving will elicit a bout of loud excited calling from its fellows.

Contrary to its frequent name, the ground calls of the whistling swan usually are not a whistle and neither notably totally different from that of Bewick’s swan.

The flight call of the latter is a low and soft ringing bark, bow-wow…; the whistling swan offers a markedly high-pitched trisyllabic bark like wow-wow-wow in flight.

By distinction, the whooper and trumpeter swans’ names precisely describe their calls—a deep hooting and a higher-pitched French horn-like honk, respectively.

Flying birds of those species are shorter-necked and have a faster wingbeat than their relations, however, they’re typically unattainable to inform aside besides by their calls.

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan Distribution

As their frequent name implies, the tundra swan breeds within the Arctic and subarctic tundra, the place they inhabit shallow pools, lakes, and rivers.

These birds, not like mute swans (C. olor) however like the opposite Arctic swans, are migratory birds. The winter habitat of each subspecies is grassland and marshland, typically close to the coast; they like to go to fields after harvest to feed on discarded grains and whereas migration could cease over on mountain lakes. According to National Geographic, when migrating these birds can fly at altitudes of 8 km (5.0 mi) in a V formation.


Tundra Swans nest within the moist Arctic tundra and are usually discovered close to the coast. During migration and thru the winter, they inhabit shallow lakes, slow-moving rivers, flooded fields, and coastal estuaries.

When Trumpeter Swans first reappeared in Washington, there was a habitat separation between the 2 swans, with the Trumpeters on recent water and Tundras on saltwater. This separation is not seen, and combined flocks are frequent.


During the breeding season, Tundra Swans forage totally on the water, utilizing their long necks to achieve as a lot as three feet below the water’s floor. During migration and in winter, a lot of their feeding is on land in fields. A long-lived species, they type long-term pair bonds.

Tundra Swan Diet

In summer, their diet consists primarily of aquatic vegetation—e.g. mannagrass (Glyceria), Potamogeton pondweeds, and marine eelgrass (Zostera), acquired by sticking the head underwater or upending whereas swimming; additionally, they eat some grass rising on dry land.

At different instances of the year, leftover grains and different crops comparable to potatoes picked up in open fields after harvest, make up a lot of their diet. Tundra swans forage primarily by day.

In the breeding season, they are typically territorial and are aggressive to many animals who move by; outdoors the breeding season, they’re somewhat gregarious birds.

Historically Tundra Swans ate invertebrates and submerged, aquatic vegetation, however extreme declines in these meals at migratory stopover and wintering areas have led the swans to shift to a winter diet of large grains and cultivated tubers left in agricultural fields by way of the winter. In summer, their diet consists of recent shoots, tubers, and seeds.

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan Nesting

Nests are positioned close to a lake or different open water, in an area with good visibility. Both parents assist construct the nest, which is a big, low mound of plant materials with depression in the center.

The pair could reuse the nest from year to year. The feminine incubates the 4 to five eggs for a few months, with the male aiding.

After the eggs hatch, each parent has a tendency the younger, main them to sources of meals the place the younger feed themselves. They first fly at 2 to three months however stick with the parents not less than by way of the first winter.

The tundra swans mate within the late spring, normally after they’ve returned to the nesting grounds; as traditional for swans, they pair monogamously till one partner dies.

Should one partner die long before the opposite, the surviving bird typically won’t mate once more for some years, and even for its whole life. The nesting season begins at the end of May.

The pair construct the massive mound-shaped nest from plant materials at an elevated site close to open water and defend a big territory around it.

Tundra Swan

The pen (feminine) lays and incubates a clutch of two–7 (normally 3–5) eggs, looking ahead to hazard whereas sitting on the nest. The cob (male) retains a gradual lookout for potential predators heading in direction of his mate and offspring.

When both of them spot a menace, they offer a warning sound to let their partner know that hazard is approaching[citation needed]. Sometimes the cob will use his wings to run quicker and seem bigger with the intention to scare away a predator.

The time from laying to hatching is 29–30 days for Bewick’s swan and 30–32 days for the whistling swan. Since they nest in chilly areas, tundra swan cygnets develop quicker than these of swans breeding in hotter climates; these of whistling swan takes about 60–75 days to fledge—

twice as quick as these of the mute swan for instance—whereas these of Bewick’s swan, about which little breeding knowledge is understood, could fledge a record 40–45 days after hatching already.

The fledglings stick with their parents for the first winter migration. The family is usually even joined by their offspring from earlier breeding seasons whereas on the wintering grounds; Tundra swans don’t attain sexual maturity till 3 or 4 years of age.

Tundra Swan


Tundra Swans migrate long distances in family teams. They depart the nesting area in late summer and stage in close-by estuaries before heading to the wintering grounds in mid-fall. In the spring, the birds make shorter flights with more stopovers than within the fall.

Tundra Swan Conservation

The most quite a few and widespread of the North American swans, the Tundra Swan is much less affected by human settlement than the bigger Trumpeter Swan.

Destruction of wetlands within the winter range has diminished former meal sources, however, the Tundra Swan has tailored by shifting its winter habitat to agricultural fields.

Lead poisoning has long been an issue for this species as a result of ingesting only some lead pellets can kill a swan. This normally impacts only some birds, however giant die-offs have occurred. The population seems stable. Limited looking happens in some western states.

Tundra Swan

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