Tundra swan

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The tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is a swan belonging to the family Anatidae. The tundra swan species is distributed in North America, Europe and Asia. The swan species is a rare visitor to Indian Subcontinent.

Taxonomy of Tundra swan

  • Scientific Name: Cygnus columbianus
  • Common Name: Tundra swan
  • French: Cygne siffleur; German: Zwergschwan; Spanish: Cisne chico;
  • Other names: Anas Columbianus Ord, 1815; Whistling Swan; Cygnus bewickii (Yarrell, 1838), Cygnus bewickii jankowski (lapsus), Cygnus bewickii jankowskii, Cygnus columbianus jancowskii (lapsus), Cygnus columbianus jankowskii, Olor bewickii (Yarrell, 1838), Olor columbianus (Ord, 1815);
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Ord, 1815)
The two recognized subspecies of tundra swan species are: C. c. bewickii (Yarrell, 1830) Bewick’s Swan and C. c. columbianus (Ord, 1815) Tundra Swan.

Indian birds - Tundra swan - Cygnus columbianus
Indian birds - Tundra swan - Cygnus columbianus
Ken Billington (http://focusingonwildlife.com/)


The tundra swan nominate species is a large bird and the male measures 120 to 150 cm in length and weighs 3,800 to 10,500 grams. The female weighs 4,100 to 9,000 grams. The subspecies Bewick’s Swan male measures 110 to 140 cm in length and weighs 4,500 to 8,400 grams. The female weighs 4,300 to 7,800 grams. The plumage is completely white. They have black feet. The bill is completely black or black with yellow in the proximal part. In immature birds head and neck are greyish.


The breeding tundra swan species prefer shallow water bodies with submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation. They occur in pools, ponds, lakes, rivers and Arctic tundra. They winter in marshes, ponds, lakes, tidal pools and estuaries.

Feeding habits

These swan species are mostly vegetarian. They feed on roots, rhizomes, shoots, seeds and leaves of aquatic plants. These swan species also feed on grains and vegetables. They are also known to feed on crustaceans, molluscs and worms.


The breeding season of these swan species is during May and June. They are monogamous. The pair build a large mound-shaped nest with plant material. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs and incubates them. The male protects the female and the brood.


The subspecies C. c. bewickii occurs in Arctic Siberia. It winters in Western Europe, Caspian Sea, East China, Korea and Japan. The subspecies C. c. columbianus occurs in tundra of Arctic North America and extreme Northeast Siberia. It winters in coastal West and East United States and North Mexico.

Movement Patterns

The tundra swan species are highly migratory moving between Arctic breeding grounds and temperate wintering grounds. The arrival at the breeding grounds starts in the early May. The wintering migration starts from early-September and arrivals at the wintering sites is from mid-October onwards.

Status and conservation

The global population of the tundra swan species is estimated to be nearly 300,000 individual birds. These species have an extremely large range and are considered least vulnerable. Habitat degradation, human activities such as oil and gas exploration, collisions with powerlines, hunting and poaching are the major conservation threats.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these tundra swan species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Cygnus columbianus
Species:C. columbianus
Binomial name:Cygnus columbianus
Distribution:Asia, Europe and North America; rare visitor to Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:seeds, fruits, leaves, roots, rhizomes of aquatic plants, crustaceans, molluscs;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bewick_swan_(Cygnus_columbianus)_(3).JPG
Author: Ken Billington (http://focusingonwildlife.com/) | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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