Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Swan Joins the REGI "Menagerie"

A Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus), also known as a Whistling Swan, was admitted recently from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area. She was acting oddly and was nearly half the weight an adult Tundra Swan should be. Lead poisoning was suspected, but a blood test found that lead was not the culprit; luckily for this beauty! She has been steadily gaining weight since she arrived at our clinic and has a healthy appetite. Her future looks very bright!

Photo above: This Tundra Swan was admitted in very low weight, but is improving rapidly. Don't mind the yellow color of this swan's feathers, it is only due to the lighting conditions. She is actually a beautiful snow white.

As the name suggests, Tundra Swans spend part of the year far north nesting on the Tundra. During the winter they migrate south to the east and west coasts of the US. We see them in Wisconsin because their migration routes take them directly through the state. (Lucky for us! They are a treat to see!)

There are three species of swans in North America; Trumpeters, Tundra, and Mute swans. All three have brilliant snow-white feathers. Mute swans have been introduced from Europe and are fairly rare in the US. They are easily identified because of their vivid orange bills with black knobs at the base. Upon first glance, Tundra swans look much like Trumpeter Swans so I want to share with you a few of the ways to tell the species apart. Tundra and Trumpeter Swans both have lovely black bills, but Tundra Swans usually have a sunny yellow spot at the base of their bill below their eye.

Photo above: You can see the yellow spot on this Tundra Swan's bill below the eye that makes it stand apart from Trumpeter Swans. The rusty color on top of this swan's head is likely due to feeding in waters rich in iron.

Aside from the yellow spot at the base of Tundra Swan's bills, their body size helps to distinguish them from their Trumpeter Swan relatives. Trumpeter Swans are the largest water fowl in North America and can weigh 22 up to a whopping 28 pounds! Although still large, Tundra Swans only weigh about 14 to 16 pounds.

Photo above: This gorgeous Trumpeter Swan is a foster parent for young cygnets during the summer. She can provide a comparison between Trumpeter and Tundra swans.

Spring will be upon us sooner than we think and the migrations will begin again! Keep your eyes on the sky and happy bird watching!

On another note...
We want to thank everyone who has been donating food for the raptors. We greatly appreciate the positive response from the community. We are still in need of fish and other foods so don't think you're too late! Donations help us all year long. We couldn't do it without you!

Thank you all and have a great weekend!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

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