Magnify and Expand

Tundra Swan


The tundra swan's breeding range spans most of the Arctic and sub-Arctic tundra from Bristol Bay, Alaska, north along the Bering Sea coast, the Arctic Ocean east to Baffin Island, and south to the northwest coast of Quebec. Female tundra swans prefer to nest on shores, points, islands or hummocks found near lakes, ponds or marshes. They lay an average of 5 eggs.


Latin: Cygnus columbianus

Average length: M 52.0", F 51.5

Average weight: M 16.0 lbs., F 13.9 lbs.


The plumage of adult tundra swans is completely white, though their heads and necks are often stained a rusty color from ferrous minerals encountered in marsh soils during feeding. The bill is black and often has a yellow spot at the base. The legs and feet are black and the iris is dark brown. Both sexes are identical in appearance, but males typically are larger. The tundra swan is smaller than the trumpeter swan, but it is difficult to separate them in the field. The tundra swan's call is high-pitched and reminiscent of snow geese, while the trumpeter swan's call is more vociferous and has been likened to the sound of a French horn.

Tundra Swan Range Map

Food Habits

Tundra swans feed on aquatic plants found in shallow water by immersing their head and neck. They primarily feed on wigeon grass, sago and clasping leaf pondweeds and wild celery, but also utilize waste grain (corn and soybeans) and winter wheat shoots.


There are two populations of tundra swans recognized in North America: eastern and western. The western population has increased an average of 6 percent per year since 1990, and in January 2000 was estimated at 89,620 birds. Similarly, the eastern population has increased an average of 5 percent per year since 1990, and in January 2000 was estimated at 103,080 birds.

Migration and Wintering

Tundra swans winter mainly along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, from southern British Columbia to California and from New Jersey to South Carolina. In the United States, primary wintering areas include the Atlantic coast from northern South Carolina to southern New Jersey, the Great Salt Lake vicinity and central and northern California.