Beautiful winter visitors, the tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) will soon head to their breeding grounds on the Arctic Tundra. Although I am sad to have these magnificent birds leave, their departure signals that spring is near.
During the winter, large flocks of tundra swans inhabit wetlands and bodies of water such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Nearby agricultural lands where the swans can glean grains after harvest are a bonus. These swans were photographed on wild rice fields near Nubieber CA.
Mature tundra swans are pure white. Juveniles are largely pale grey. Over the winter the juvenile have a partial molt resulting in a largely white appearance with a greyish tinge on the head, neck and wings. Both adults and immatures are visible in the photographs.
Tundra swans eat mostly plant material. Mollusks and arthropods are also taken. As the swans swim and forage in the shallow, muddy water of the rice fields their pure white plumage stains the yellow or tan color seen on some of the birds in the pictures.
Swans form life-long bonds. In honor of Valentine’s Day, which was yesterday, I included a picture of a pair whose necks resemble a heart – reminiscent of the “Love Swans” stamp issued by the USPS in 1997.