Tundra Swan

Cygnus columbianus
Tundra Swan specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Somewhat smaller (53 inches) and slimmer than the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), the Tundra Swan is most easily identified by its size, black bill, and long straight neck. Other field marks include an all-white body, black legs, and short tail. Male and female Tundra Swans are alike at all seasons. Tundra Swans inhabit a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere. The North American subspecies breeds in coastal Alaska and northwestern Canada southeast to the Hudson Bay. Swans breeding in the western part of this range spend the winter along the Pacific coast of the United States and in the mountain west; swans breeding further east winter along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to South Carolina. In the Old World, this species breeds in northern Siberia, wintering south to Western Europe and northern China. In summer, Tundra Swans breed in coastal lakes and ponds on the arctic tundra. During the winter, this species may be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including estuaries, lakes, and rivers. Tundra Swans primarily eat plant material, including aquatic grasses, seeds, and tubers. Due to the relative inaccessibility of this species’ breeding grounds, most birdwatchers never observe Tundra Swans during the summer months. In winter, they may be most easily observed while foraging for food, when they may be seen walking on the shore or on grass further inland. They also feed on the water, where they may be seen submerging their upper bodies to seek out aquatic vegetation. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

A common migrant and winter resident from mid-October to mid-April, found mostly in and around Chesapeake Bay. Distinguished from the increasingly common Mute Swan by its straight-necked posture and lack of knob in the bill. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

Although the bird on the left is quite large, its grey feathers are the mark of a juvenile, while the bird on the right is an adult in white plumage.
This is the information for the bird standing on the left.
Date: December, 1945
Collected By: PR Hough
Locality: Washington's Birth Place, VA
Sex: Male, Immature
Catalog ID: 385724

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11849 Cygnus columbianus (Tundra Swan)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11848 Cygnus columbianus (Tundra Swan)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11850 Cygnus columbianus (Tundra Swan)