Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tundra Swans in southern Wisconsin

(adult Tundra Swan)

Friends and family have reported seeing flocks of "large, white birds" that they thought might be Snow Geese. I told them I'm pretty sure what they actually observed were TUNDRA SWANS, which have been moving through Dane County in large numbers over the past week. In fact, a local birder observed over 1,000 of these gorgeous swans on Lake Mendota near Governor's Island on December 4th.

(immature Tundra Swan)

Unlike the Mute Swan, the Tundra Swan is native to North America and was formerly known as the Whistling Swan. They are quite a spectacle to behold, whether singularly or in large flocks. I have no idea if they're still around but I see the temperature outside is presently -4°F...yikes! I think I'll be staying in this morning. The swans, however, must endure in this nasty cold.

Here's a map of the Tundra Swan's distribution and as you can see they have a more disparate eastern and western population split during the winter season. They're monogamous and migrate in flocks composed of family groups. Tundra Swans are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service as two population sizes - 80,000 for the eastern population and 60,000 for the western one.

Link: All about the Tundra Swan from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Tundra Swan images © 2005 Michael McDowell

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