A pair of Tundra Swans flying south during their fall migration Dave Freeman
What do Tundra Swans look and sound like?
Tundra Swans are large birds with long necks. They have white feathers and black legs, feet, and beak. They can be as large as 1.3 meters from beak to tail. An adult male weighs about 7.5 kg and an adult female weighs about 6.3 kg. They make a soft, melodious sound. In large migrating groups, they sound much larger than one on its own.
Where do Tundra Swans live?
They spend the summer on the tundra of the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. A male and female swan will usually spend one year as a pair. This pair defends a territory of about two square kilometers.
There are two different populations of Tundra Swans. One lives in the east and the other in the west. They have separate breeding grounds and migration routes.
What is their migration like?
Imagine having to travel 6,000 kilometers twice a year! That is about how far the Tundra Swans fly between their summer and winter homes. In the fall, the eastern population flys down to the Atlantic coast, where it will spend the winter in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, and North Carolina. We happen to be paddling along the migration route for the western population of Tundra Swans. Right now they are flying from the tundra to the Pacific Slope, mainly in California. In the spring, they will head back north to their summer habitat.
What do Tundra Swans eat?
Tundra Swans mainly eat roots of plants that grow in shallow water. The eastern population actually likes to eat mussels and clams. They will also eat grains like corn and wheat that they might find in a farm field after the harvest.
What does a Tundra Swan’s nest look like?
When the Tundra Swans spend the summer on the tundra in the Arctic, each pair will build a nest near a pond or lake. The nest is large and round. It is made of sticks and lined with moss and grasses. A female Tundra Swan will usually lay about four eggs. The eggs are large and cream colored. The female will sit on the eggs for 32 days, waiting for them to hatch!
Interesting facts about the Tundra Swan:
The Tundra Swan used to be called the “whistling swan” because of the sound made by the beating of the bird’s wings in flight. The Tundra Swan is the most common species of swan in Canada. There are seven species of swans in the world and two are native to North America. They are the Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan. There are about 140,000 Tundra Swans in North America.
What effect do humans have on Tundra Swans?
Humans have had a big effect on some migration stops and the wintering grounds of Tundra Swans. The Tundra Swans depend on marshes and ponds for finding food. If humans change the landscape by damming a river or draining a marsh, it is difficult for a Tundra Swan to find food. This might be why some Tundra Swans now eat corn and wheat from farm fields.
Two Tundra Swans swimming. Dave Freeman
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