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Tundra Swan - Cygnus columbianus

Tundra Swan


 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Anseriformes
 Family: Anatidae
 Genus:   Cygnus
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


Tundra SwanThe tundra swan is 47-58 inches in length with a wingspan of about 66 inches. It is completely white and has a round head, a long neck, a long black bill, a black face, and black feet and legs. It may have a yellow spot in front of its eyes.


Tundra SwanThe tundra swan, unlike the mute swan, holds its neck up straight when swimming. Males and females look alike, but the male is usually a little larger. The tundra swan is the only swan native to the eastern U.S.



mapThe tundra swan breeds in the Arctic regions of northern Canada and Alaska. There are two populations of tundra swans in North America, one in the east and one in the west. Both populations migrate over 3,000 miles each season. The eastern population winters on the Atlantic Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to North Carolina. The western population winters on the Pacific Coast from southern British Columbia to southern California. Small groups also winter in interior portions of the west and on the Great Lakes. The tundra swan also breeds in Siberia.


The tundra swan breeds on the Arctic tundra and winters on salt water bays, estuaries, and marshy lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and flooded fields.



Tundra SwanThe tundra swan feeds in flocks in shallow water. It plunges its long neck underwater and tips up its rear to feed on the tubers and roots of aquatic plants. It also eats mollusks and grains.



Life Cycle

Tundra SwanMale and female courtship begins in the late winter and continues into the spring. The male and female face each other, stretch out their wings, and bow their heads at each other. Both the male and female build a large mound of vegetation with a bowl-shaped depression in the middle and line it with down. The female lays 3-5 eggs.

Tundra SwanThe female incubates the eggs for 32-34 days while the male guards the nest site. Both parents care for the cygnets, who can swim and feed themselves shortly after birth but still need to be brooded or sat on by a parent to keep warm on the cold tundra. The cygnets migrate with their parents in the fall and stay with them through the winter. Male and female pairs usually mate for life.


Tundra SwanThe tundra swan was once called the whistling swan because of the sound its powerful wings make when it is in flight.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Allen T. Chartier cc logo