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Tundra Swan

Scientific Name:

Cygnus columbianus




Tundra areas during breeding and nesting season, coastal areas and inland waterways (lakes, estuaries, wetlands) otherwise


Throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States they are seen in northwest coastal states, Northern Great Basin and Rocky Mountain states, Alaska, and mid Atlantic coastal states


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Tundra swans are considered large birds with very long necks poised on heavier bodies. They have pure white feathers, black legs and feet, and black bills. Some Tundra swans have been noted to have a small patch of yellow at the base of their bills. A Tundra swan can have a nearly six foot wingspan. When they are not nesting they are usually observed in large flocks. Some migrating flocks contain up to 100 swans. Tundra swans are found on and near lakes, ponds, estuaries and wetlands. They have been observed feeding in agricultural fields as they mostly eat plant matter from those fields and from the water areas they inhabit. Tundra swans also eat arthropods and mollusks.

Fast Facts:

  • Tundra swans have been observed using their feet to paddle in waters near nest sites to dig up food from the bottom for their young to eat.

  • Tundra swans mate for life and spend the year together. When it is time to make the nest, they work together to build the home for the future hatchlings. They are ground nesters.

  • The North American Tundra Swan is also called the Whistling Swan. Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) identified a whistling noise in the wings of these great birds and first used this name.

  • Tundra swans breed in the arctic, mostly in remote areas.

  • Tundra Swans have been observed in parks throughout the Truckee Meadows where there are larger ponds and waterways. Swan Lake Nature Study Area is an especially good place to spot them during winter.



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Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:23 AM

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