Tundra Swan

Cygnus columbianus

Tundra swans are very large birds that winter at the Mattamuskeet National Refuge and the surrounding areas. They breed in the high tundra across the top of North America. On the refuge, they reside in the moist soil units and the lakes and forage on cropland on and around the refuge. They stay in large flocks when they are in the area. Tundra swans feed on aquatic plants found in shallow water by immersing their head and neck. They primarily feed on wigeon grass, sago and clasping leaf pondweeds and wild celery, but also utilize waste corn and soybeans) and winter wheat shoots.


Male tundra swans average 52 inches in length and 16 pounds in weight; females average 51 inches in length and 14 pounds in weight... The plumage of adult tundra swans is completely white, though their heads and necks are often stained a rusty color from ferrous minerals encountered in marsh soils during feeding. The bill is black and often has a yellow spot at the base. The legs and feet are black and the iris is dark brown. Both sexes are identical in appearance, but males typically are larger. The tundra swan is smaller than the trumpeter swan, but it is difficult to separate them in the field. The tundra swan's call is high-pitched and reminiscent of snow geese, while the trumpeter swan's call is more vociferous and has been likened to the sound of a French horn.

Facts About Tundra Swan

  • Feed on aquatic plants
  • Males 52 in long 15 lbs
  • Females 51 in long 14 lbs
  • Call sounds similar to a French horn.