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Tundra Swan

Cygnus columbianus ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

On wintry days, flocks of North America’s most numerous swans gather on lakes and estuaries or descend out of gray skies. A characteristic whistling in their wings led Meriwether Lewis to call them “whistling swans,” a name still in use. These elegant creatures—slightly smaller than our other native species, the Trumpeter Swan—nest on arctic tundra and visit the U.S. only on migration and in winter. Most have a smudge of yellow at the base of their black bill, but otherwise are pure white.

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Find This Bird

Unless you’re in the arctic, don’t look for Tundra Swans in the summer. Instead, look for them on large bodies of water, particularly estuaries and protected coastal waters, during migration and in winter. You may also see flocks of these large white birds in agricultural fields where they are feeding on spilled or unharvested grains. Look for their distinctive straight-necked posture, as well as their characteristic large flocks, to separate them from Mute Swans.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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