Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Beauty of Tundra Swans in Migration

        On March 27 and 28 I was treated to the awesome beauty of tundra swans (cygnus columbianus) flying over my district. The  mornings were both dark gray overcast so the brilliant white of the birds was sparkling as they flew towards the north. The striking color is just as noticeable under a clear blue sky as well.

        Tundra swans pass through Alberta in late March or early April  to their nesting grounds on the Arctic coast. They will rest and feed here for a short time, but keep on pressing north always landing on frozen over lakes and ponds. This is the condition they find on the Arctic coast when they begin nesting. The whole reproduction cycle is successful by a mere number of days. Egg incubation, maturation of young until they develop their flight feathers leaves very little room for error. The young must begin fall migration with very little flight experience.

      Tundra swans can be hard to distinguish from trumpeter swans(cygnus buccinator). Trumpeter swans are larger than tundra swans and nest in northern Alberta. The tundra swan has a small amount of yellow on the bill. It is difficult to tell the difference between  the species out in the field. Their voices are also different, but again you have to be experienced to recognize them.

      So once again I have the exciting experience to see tundra swans in migration. Just so trumpeter swans and you don't think I'm biased, I also enjoy the larger trumpeter swan as well. The trumpeter's will hang around on local ponds for a while so they can be observed at a more leisurely pace.