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Tundra Swan

Overview

This is our only highly migratory swan, and the large flocks that pass through in spring and fall are spectacular sights. There have been records of groups numbering into the thousands, but flocks of a few dozen would be more typical.

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Description

The tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is large with pure white plumage, except for a yellow spot below the eye. Its bill is black.

Reproduction

Breeding takes place in northern Canada and Alaska. Nests are large mounds of grass on an island or next to a marsh. Five eggs are laid and incubated for 35-40 days. Both parents care for the young, which usually hatch in late June and fledge 60-70 days after hatching.

Habitat & Behavior

This species was once known as the "whistling swan," although the sounds they make are more reminiscent of geese, or perhaps dogs heard from afar. "Tundra" is a much more appropriate moniker, as this species nests in the extreme northern reaches of North America. They are usually found in open marshes, lakes, or flooded fields. They sometimes forage in agricultural fields. Their diet consists of aquatic plants, mollusks, fish, and shellfish.