For many people, fall is not complete without viewing the melodious tundra swans. Swans begin arriving daily in mid-October, and building to a peak population by mid-November. Migrating day and night, their woo-hoo, woo-hoo call can be heard across the river.
Adults are white with black bills; the young called cygnets are grey with pink bills
Brownsville Overlook south of Brownsville, MN, on Hwy 26; Shady Maple Overlook south of La Crosse, WI, on Hwy 35, Rieck’s Lake north of Alma, WI on Hwy 35; Weaver Bottoms north of Minnieska, MN on Hwy 61
During fall migration, mid-October through freeze-up 20% of the eastern population visit the refuge. Up to 50,000 can be seen resting and feeding at one time.
The refuge provides nourishment for swans on their migration. The starchy bulbs or tubers of plants like arrowhead (duck potato), wild celery and sago pondweed are the main course. The tubers buried in the river bottom are dislodged by the swans large webbed feet. With their long necks they can reach the tasty morsels. Ducks often feed close taking advantage of the leftovers.
On the Atlantic Coast from New Jersey to South Carolina where they feed on shellfish, waste corn, soybeans and winter wheat.
A small number stop for a short time before returning to their breeding grounds on the tundra of Canada and Alaska.
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Brownsville Overlook on HWY 26 south of Brownsville, Minnesota offers one of the best locations to view and listen to the haunting calls of the Tundra Swans. The river refuge has grown arrowhead all summer for the hungry swans.