Laggard Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan

Tundra swans, also commonly called whistling swans (Cygnus columbianus), breed in the high Arctic tundra and winter along the coasts of Canada and the United States. Leonard and I love to watch these elegant birds as they swim in the wild rice fields and ponds near our home or as they fly overhead with their necks straight out and their black legs trailing.

Usually the swans leave our area for their summering grounds by late February or early March. This year the tundra swans were a little tardy migrating, but they all appeared to be gone by the third week of March.

In the first week of April Leonard and I visited the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge near Tulelake CA. Much to our surprise we saw a single tundra swan resting in one of the canals. I had a 200 mm lens on my camera and was so close to the swan when I looked over the edge of the canal I could not fit the entire bird into the frame, cutting off the tip of its tail. We wondered why this laggard was not on its way to the Arctic. Our assumption that the swan was injured or could not fly was proven wrong when it eventually flew off. We we will never know why this lone swan was still on its wintering grounds.

Note the rust head on this pure white bird. The ferrous minerals in water and soil turn tundra swan plumage a rusty color as they feed on submerged or buried arthropods, mollusks and plant materials.

My post “Tundra Swan” from 11-11-2011 gives more information about these beautiful birds.

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