Hey guys, welcome back. Today, our second swan species, and first native one: the tundra swan. That’s right, you may remember way back when we did mute swan I mentioned that they are actually not native to this country. The tundra swan is, however. They get their name from their breeding range. They breed in extreme North America, in the tundra. There are two subspecies of tundra swan, the Bewick’s found throughout Eurasia, and the whistling, found in North America. At one time it was thought these two were separate species, but they are now classified as one. Fun fact, the whistling subspecies was first described by Meriwether Lewis on his famous expedition with his buddy Clark. He named them that because of their whistling calls.
The tundra swan looks almost identical to it’s slightly larger cousin, the trumpeter swan. Both birds are large and all white, and lack the knobby black and orange bill of the mute swan. Although some tundra swans show a spot of yellow at the base of the bill, especially the Eurasian subspecies, they can be identified by the black skin that covers the front half of their face. The skin connecting to the eye is narrower on tundras than on trumpeters. However, this is a tough call to make for novice birders.
My first sighting of tundra swans was a flyover of Central Park, way back in 2015. My next sighting wouldn’t be until little over a month ago! And I’ve seen another since then, and not the same bird. That’s how it goes sometimes. Like most swans, they do mate for life, but the term doesn’t mean in the bird world what we like to think it means. Yes, once a pair is formed, they will stay together until one of the birds dies. However, contrary to popular belief, the “widowed” bird does get sad and lonely and die of depression, they simply look for another bird to form another life pair with. Next time, we’ll look at another white waterfowl from the tundra. Snow goose is next. See you then!
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