Cygnus Columbianus

"Tundra Swan Immature"

District Municipality of Muskoka - February 22, 2002
Near Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Photos by A. Sinclair


Above are some photos of an immature Swan that is wintering on the Muskoka River between Hanna Chute and Trethewey Falls east of Hwy 11 near Bracebridge. Initially it was thought to be an introduced Trumpeter Swan but it had no bands or tags which meant it was either raised in the wild or it was not a Trumpeter. After a few people had closer looks at the bird, the consensus was that it is a Tundra Swan. This is an unusual and unprecedented winter bird record for the Muskoka region. Tundra Swans are occasionally seen in the region during the spring and fall migration.

It has been feeding on aquatic plants in shallow areas of the river since early January. When the river became mostly frozen in early February it has stayed in open water around the two dams, most recently at Trethewey Falls. A local resident tried to feed it corn but it ignored the offer. It has been flying up and down the river and appears healthy so far. It was observed at close range by Nick Bartok who works at Wye Marsh and is familiar with immature Trumpeter Swans. He says it is smaller and its call notes are higher pitched than an equal aged Trumpeter. Looking at the timing of the molt to white adult plumage from gray immature plumage would confirm it as a Tundra Swan as most of the body is now white. Trumpeter Swans apparently retain gray on the body into April or later. Tundra Swans complete the body molt by March but some gray remains on the head and neck. Bill and head shape apparently can be misleading in identifying immature Tundra and Trumpeter Swans. The legs of this swan are black, the legs of Trumpeter Swan immatures are olive-buff. Another useful field mark is body shape. Trumpeter Swans have a flatter back making them appear lower in the water as can be seen in the photos below. The photo on the right is of a Trumpeter Swan juvenile in fall.