From the Tundra

A group of eight Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans

We had a great birdwatching treat yesterday. We saw the eight Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) pictured here in a small lake in middle Georgia. These wonderful birds are rare Winter visitors in Georgia. They breed in the far north of Canada and Alaska along the Arctic Ocean, down through the Bering Strait to the Aleutians, and along the southern shore of Hudson Bay. They spend Winters in two areas: along the West Coast of British Columbia and the U.S. coast as far south as middle California; and on the East Coast mainly in Virginia and North Carolina. Tundra Swans are smaller than the other swan species, but still reach a respectable weight of about 14.5 pounds.

The photograph shows seven adult swans and one juvenile, which is the darker bird at the end of the line. It is rare to see any Tundra Swans in Georgia, and a group this large is even more rare. The River Basin Center from the University Georgia recorded a group of 15 Tundra Swans seen at Darien in 1984. Unless more sightings turn up, the group of eight pictured above would be the largest seen in Georgia in 30 years.

Three species of swan can be seen in the U.S. The Tundra Swan and the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) are native North American species; the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) was introduced from Europe and is not migratory.  The Trumpeter Swan normally spends the Winter on the West Coast, and  I have not found any records of it having been seen in Georgia. The Mute Swan is the swan of European myth and legend. In the U.S., one commonly sees it in parks or public spaces, where it can sometimes get a bit aggressive toward people. In some cases the Mute Swan was introduced into small bodies of water to keep Canada Geese out.


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