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Tundra Swan

Cygnus columbianus ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

True to its name, the Tundra Swan breeds on the high tundra across the top of North America. It winters in large flocks along both coasts, and is frequently encountered during its migration across the continent.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
47.2–57.9 in
120–147 cm
Wingspan
66.1 in
168 cm
Weight
134–370.4 oz
3800–10500 g
Other Names
  • Whistling Swan (English)
  • Cygne siffleur (French)
  • Cisne chiflador (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The whistling swan, the American race of the Tundra Swan, currently is considered the same species as the Eurasian race, the Bewick's swan. They were considered separate species in the past, distinguished by the large yellow patches on the face of the Bewick's swan.
  • During the breeding season the Tundra Swan sleeps almost entirely on land, but in the winter it sleeps more often on water.
  • Swan nests on the tundra are vulnerable to a host of predators, such as foxes, weasels, jaegers, and gulls. If the parents are present, they are able to defend the nest and nestlings from these threats. Wolves, people, and bears, however, are too big to fight, and most incubating swans leave their nests while these large predators are far away. By leaving quickly when large predators approach, the parents may make the nest harder to find.
  • The Tundra Swan stays in flocks except when on a breeding territory. Although most swans spread out to breed, a large proportion of the population on the breeding grounds still can be found in flocks. These swans are not breeding, and may be young birds that have not yet bred, adult pairs whose breeding attempts failed, or adults that bred in the past but for some reason do not in that year.

Habitat


Lake/Pond

Breeds on tundra lakes, ponds, and pools along coast. Winters in shallow estuaries, lakes, ponds, and rivers; feeds in agricultural fields.

Food


Plants

Aquatic plants, seeds, tubers, grains, some mollusks and arthropods.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–5 eggs
Egg Description
Creamy white.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with down and eyes open. Leaves nest within 24 hours of hatching and has the ability to swim and feed.
Nest Description

Nest a large open bowl, made of grasses, sedges, lichens, and moss, lined with only a little down. Usually placed on mound or ridge in tundra.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Dabbler

Tips up to reach aquatic vegetation, grazes on grass. Feeds in flocks.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Common and may be increasing. As a game species, populations managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service.

Credits

    1. Bellrose, F. C. 1976. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA.
    2. Limpert, R. J., and S. L. Earnst. 1994. Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus ). In The Birds of North America, No. 89 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

Tundra Swan Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings