Tundra swans can take off from the water with a running start and beat their wings until airborne.
Tundra swans can take off from the water with a running start and beat their wings until airborne.
Photograph courtesy Alaska Stock Images

Tundra Swan

Snowy white tundra swans breed in the Arctic. Young swans have fluffy gray feathers in their first winter. The tundra swan call is higher and more like that of a Canada goose.

Common Name:
Tundra Swan
Scientific Name:
Cygnus columbianus
Type:
Birds
Diet:
Omnivore
Group Name:
Flock
Average Life Span In The Wild:
Up to 20 years
Size:
Body: 3.9 to 4.8 feet; wingspan: 5.5 feet
Weight:
8.4 to 23.1 pounds

Tundra swans mate for life and pair up for nearly a year before breeding. They breed in solitary pairs spread out across the Arctic tundra.

They can be nasty protectors and are able to fend off predators like foxes. They prefer to nest near wetlands containing pondweed. They line their large, stick nests with moss and grasses. Females lay about four eggs and incubate them for 32 days.

These large birds feed by dipping their heads underwater to pluck aquatic plants, roots, and tubers. Their diet consists of mainly submerged plants and roots, but they will also eat some cereal grains, corn, and mollusks, which are a kind of shellfish.

The majestic tundra swan is a strong swimmer and can take off from the water with a running start and beat their wings until airborne. Their flapping wings produce a sound that earned them the name "whistling swan."

They migrate thousands of miles to enjoy a milder winter in North America's Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, bays, and lakes. Twice a year, they fly 3,725 miles (6,000 kilometers) round-trip between the breeding and wintering locations.