I was driving into town this weekend and I noticed a sign advertising “Swan Haven” out at Mclintock Bay here in Whitehorse. This is a popular staging area for Trumpeter Swans while they fly north. You can go here and see hundreds of swans just hanging out and resting. This simple sign inspired me to start the week off talking about the swan; however, I felt more inclined to write about the Tundra Swan instead of the Trumpeter Swan. Both these swans are similar and very difficult to tell apart. If you get close enough you will see a yellow mark at the base of the bill on a Tundra Swan.
The tundra swan is also known as the “Whistling Swan” but they didn’t get this other name by being whistling champions. In fact it is the high pitched sound coming from their wings as they fly overhead that gives rise to the whistling nickname. When you include the fact that these birds will migrate 6000 km (3725 miles) round-trip, it ends up in a whole lot of whistling.
Unlike many animals, the tundra swans mate for life and will often pair up for an entire year before mating. I am sure during this year the male swan has to be on his best behaviour and take the female to dinner and the movies all the time. Mating between these birds can be very difficult due to the harsh climate of the arctic. If there happens to be a late spring or an early freeze than the population of swans that year takes a big hit. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to cause too many problems as the tundra swan is the most widespread and numerous species of swan in North America.
Tundra Swan Fast Fact: Although the Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan look alike they sing very different songs. The trumpeter swan has a brassy and trumpet-like voice, while the tundra swan has a softer voice with more melody.
I think I am off to Mclintock Bay to go and watch some swans! Have a great day!