Tundra Swan
FWS Focus

Overview

Scientific Name

Cygnus columbianus
Common Name
Tundra Swan
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics

Color & Pattern

Tundra swans are entirely white plumage except for their bill. The bill is black, except for a yellow spot at the base. The legs and feet are black. Immature birds are grayish on their wings, as well as the head and neck.

Weight

The tundra swan weighs between 13 and 20 pounds (5.89 and 9.07 kg), with the males slightly larger than the females.

Size & Shape

Tundra Swans are a very large waterfowl species. They have heavy bodies and long slim necks. This swan holds its neck straight up, unlike other swan species, and stretches it out long when in flight. 

MeasurementsLength: 47.2 to 57.9 in (120 to 147 cm)Wingspan: 66 in (168 cm)

Sound

High-pitched hoo-ho-hoo call that is most often heard from a migrating flock.

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics

Reproduction

Nests are usually constructed in close proximity to large bodies of water. Both the male and female build the nest. The nest consists of mounded vegetation made of a variety of plants, lichens and moss. The pair will continue to work on the nest through incubation, and with such effort put into the nest, they frequently use the nest for multiple seasons. The females will lay four to six eggs. 

Characteristic category

Overview

Characteristics

Overview

The tundra swan migrates long distances, in family groups, from the Arctic tundra to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. This large, all-white bird uses a variety of large lakes and smaller wetlands, especially where submersed aquatic vegetation is plentiful. Sometimes this species is called the whistling swan after the sound of their wingbeats.

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics

Habitat

Breeding birds prefer areas with extensive wetlands and lakes with long shorelines. Tundra swans use a variety of large lakes and smaller wetlands, especially where submersed aquatic vegetation is plentiful. During fall and winter, flocks will also feed and loaf in agricultural fields.

Wetland
Lake
Tundra

Cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics

Food

During the summer, tundra swans eat primarily roots, stems and leaves of aquatic vegetation, such as mannagrass, pondweeds and even algae. Feeding mainly in water they dabble or dip their head underwater. Their diet changes during migration and while on the wintering grounds. During those colder periods, look for tundra swans in fields gleaning corn, soybeans and rice left after the harvest. They also feed on growing winter crops, such as winter wheat, rye and barley.

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics

Behavior

Tundra swans, while seen in flocks during migration, separate in solitary pairs for breeding season. They mate for life, and pairs will fiercely defend their nesting territory. 

Characteristic category

Geography

Characteristics

Range

Tundra swans breed primarily in Alaska and northern Canada and winter on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. The eastern population migrates southeast to coastal areas from Delaware to North Carolina, while the western population migrates south to the Pacific Northwest and several inland areas. Continental population sizes exceed 200,000, and populations appear to have been increasing since the early 1980s.

Geography

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