Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Dutch:
Fluitzwaan, Kleine zwaan
Common Names in English:
American swan, Bewick's swan, Tundra Swan, Whistling Swan
Common Names in French:
Cygne de Bewick, cygne siffleur
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Italian:
Common Names in Japanese:
Common Names in Russian:
Лебедь американский, Малый лебедь
Common Names in Spanish:
Cisne Chico, Cisne de tundra
Common Names in Swedish:
: Black bill with variably-sized yellow spot at base
Culmen somewhat concave
· Black of bill extends up to eye
but does not encircle it · Straight demarcation on forehead
between black bill and white feathering · Black legs
· Entirely white plumage · Sexes similar
Immature : Body grayer than adult
About 47 to 58 inches long, with a wingspan of 72 to 84 inches. Adults weigh about 251.2 ounces .
Vegetation: freshwater lakes and ponds • Maximum Elevation: 2,000 meters • Sensitivity to Disturbance: Low
Typically found in a lake at a mean distance from sea level of 301 meters (989 feet).
Behaviour This species is fully migratory and travels on a
narrow front via specific routes using well-known stop-over sites3
between its Arctic
breeding and temperate
It arrives on the breeding grounds
from early-May to late-June3
(depending on local conditions)2 where it breeds
well-dispersed5 in single pairs1,
occasionally nesting semi-colonially in optimum habitats2,
3. After breeding the species undergoes a flightless moulting
period lasting for c.30 days between late-June and early-September,
gathering in flocks on open waters3, 4. Family
groups leave the breeding grounds from early-September to late-October3
and arrive on the wintering grounds from mid-October onwards3.
During this autumn migration some groups may remain at stop-over
sites until moved on by cold weather3. The return
northward migration occurs from early-March, with the species travelling
in small parties that disperse on arrival in the Arctic3.
The species is gregarious
outside of the breeding season
, often gathering
into large flocks of hundreds
or thousands of individuals on the
wintering grounds2, 3. The species forages by day
(where undisturbed)1 and roosts at night on open
Breeding The species
breeds near shallow pools
, lakes1 and broad slow-flowing
rivers1, 2 with emergent littoral
) connected to coastal delta
areas2 in open, moist, low-lying sedge-grass or
moss-lichen2 Arctic tundra1.
It rarely nests
, and generally avoids forested areas2.
Non-breeding On migration the species frequents shallow ponds2,
lowland and upland
lakes2, 3, reservoirs3,
marshes, shallow saline lagoons2 and sheltered
and estuaries3. During the winter
it inhabits brackish
, ponds2 and shallow tidal
2 with adjacent
pastures2 or agricultural arable fields1,
2 below 100 m5. Diet
is predominantly herbivorous1, its diet consisting
of the seeds, fruits, leaves, roots
, rhizomes and stems of aquatic
(e.g. Potamogeton, Zostera and Glyceria
spp.), grasses1, sedges, reeds (Phragmites
and Typha spp.)2 and herbaceous tundra vegetation2.
During the winter the species complements its diet with agricultural
grain and vegetables1 (e.g. potatoes1
beet2), and may also take estuarine invertebrates
such as molluscs
(e.g. Corophium spp.) and polycheate
worms on tidal mudflats prior to migration2. Breeding
site The nest is a large mound of plant matter positioned on
ground1 such as a ridge
or hummock, often
at some distance
from feeding pools to reduce to
the risk of flooding2. The species may re-use a
nest from the previous year or build a new one, and although it is
, many pairs may nest close together in optimum habitats
(e.g. 5-16 pairs per 10 km2)2. Management
information An experiment carried out in the Sacramento National
Wildlife Refuge, California found that in wetland habitats where
underlie wetland sediments tilling (plowing) the soil
may be an effective means of reducing lead
availability to waterfowl8.
Plowing was found to reduce the amount of shot available to depths
of 20-30 cm (below the foraging
zone of the species)8.
List of Habitats:
- 4 Grassland
- 4.1 Grassland - Tundra
- 4.4 Grassland - Temperate
- 5 Wetlands (inland)
- 5.1 Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls )
- 5.4 Wetlands (inland) - Bogs , Marshes, Swamps , Fens , Peatlands
- 14 Artificial/Terrestrial
- 14.1 Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
- 14.2 Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland [more info]
Clutch Size: 5 Length of Incubation : 35-40 days Days to Fledge : 60-70+ Number of Broods: 1
Tundra swans migrate to their northern breeding grounds , from Alaska's Bristol Bay to Baffin Island, with the first spring thaw. They fly in chevrons of 25 to 100 birds. Perhaps 70,000 have wintered in the Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay marshes. Smaller numbers come from other Atlantic Coast estuaries, the Klamath Basin of the northwest, the Carson Sink of Nevada, the Bear River of Utah, the Columbia River of Oregon, and even southern New Mexico. A European subspecies is extremely similar to North American tundra swans, but they do not migrate to this continent. By mid-May nearly all have arrived in the treeless tundra country of the far north. They are believed to pair for life, and they breed at two to three years. They lay an average of four eggs , which take about 30 days to hatch , in a depression lined with grass , moss, willow and down . Chicks (cygnets) can dive in water at about 10 days of age. They can fly by the age of 10 weeks. Tundra swans leave the nesting areas in late September, and weather can be a severe factor before and during their migrations. They migrate as family units . Tundra swans reach their wintering grounds from mid-November into December. Those bound for the Atlantic Coast make tremendous flights, flying day and night with infrequent stops, at altitudes of 3,000 to 5,000 feet.(Ref. 109946)
Tundra swan displays are like small dramas: Adults may land on water, face each other, spread their wings and call loudly. After a brief time, the birds separate and feed quietly. If they are alarmed, their long necks are stretched up, their bills pointing skyward. (Ref. 109946)
A group of swans may sound like a flock of noisy Canada geese, but their calls are more musical then honking.
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- Linnaeus, 1758
- Gauthier, 1986
- (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Pycraft, 1900
- Sibley et al., 1988
- Wagler, 1831
- Suborder: Anseres () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758) Wagler, 1831
- Order: Anseriformes () - Wagler, 1831
- Superorder: Galloanserimorphae () - Sibley et al., 1988
- Cohort: Neognathae () - Pycraft, 1900
- Infraclass: Aves () - (C. Linnaeus, 1758)
- Subclass: Avialae () - Gauthier, 1986
- Class: Aves () - Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Cygnus columbianus (Ord) • Cygnus columbianus (Ord, 1815)
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 23-Jan-2007
Members of the genus Cygnus
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 11 species and subspecies in this genus:
C. atratus (Black Swan) · C. buccinator (Trumpeter Swan) · C. columbianus (Whistling Swan) · C. columbianus atlanticus (Tundra Swan) · C. columbianus bewickii (Bewick's Swan) · C. columbianus columbianus (Tundra Swan) · C. cygnus (Common Whooper) · C. cygnus buccinator (Trumpeter Swan) · C. melancoryphus (Black-Necked Swan) · C. melanocorypha (Black-Necked Swan) · C. olor (Domestic Swan)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 26, 2007:
- Avian Knowledge Network, eBird
- Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Bishop Museum Natural History Specimen Data
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, North West Territories and Nunavut Bird Checklist, Canada
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Ontario Nest Records
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Birds
- Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Royal British Columbia Museum
- Marine Science Institute, UCSB, Paleobiology Database
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Terrestrial vertebrate specimens
- New Brunswick Museum, NBM birds
- Royal Ontario Museum, Bird specimens
- UK National Biodiversity Network, Environment and Heritage Service - EHS Species Datasets
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 11631
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-714735
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 2927116
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 174987
- IUCN ID: 203862
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: ABNJB02010
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 7220
- New Mexico Wildlife. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Version of April 24, 2009. [back]
- Standard Deviation = 447.300 based on 4,146 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
- BirdLife International 2009. Cygnus columbianus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 31 January 2012. [back]