Elms Environmental Education Center

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January 2018: Tundra Swan

Tundra Swans


Tundra Swan
Cygnus columbianus

Who am I?

 I am America's most abundant swan. I whistle when I fly so some people call me "whistling swans". Like all swans I am huge and white. Don't mistake me for those huge british interlopers, mute swans, with their garish orange beaks. We are small and elegant, black and white, and rather sociable, at least with others of our kind. My mate and I will build our nests in the arctic tundra laying 5-6 eggs. After about a month the eggs hatch. Our babies are called "cygnets". We will stay together as a family for a couple of months until the cygnets are able to fly. 

Where can you find me?

 During the spring and summer we are in the arctic tundra. During winter we head south as far as the Chesapeake Bay.

What do I eat?

 We eat plants. We are dabblers, reaching our long necks down deep below the water to graze on plants that are growing there. In wintertime, in the Chesapeake, we eat mostly clams that we dig up from the mud.

What might eat me?

 Lots of critters including foxes, wolves, eagles, crows, ravens, people, bears and weasels.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  •  The Lewis and Clark expedition first found and named me the "whistling swan".
  • Gulls and other birds will steal clams from the tundra swans during their winter stay in the Chesapeake.
  • We are symbols of the romantic in everyone, indeed we will find a mate when we are three years old and then stay together for life.
  • We can live up to 23 years old.

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