In the winter our neighborhood is home to one or more migrant flocks of Tundra Swans that arrive usually in early December and stay with us until March.
A group of eight swans was spotted on the Potomac River at the east end of our neighborhood on Tuesday, December 24.
In the winter Presley Creek on the eastern end of our neighborhood is home to large flocks of Canada Geese and smaller groups of Tundra Swans (although in 2017 we counted as many as 80 swans at one time). The geese spend the day foraging in nearby fields while the swans spend most of the day in the Potomac, feeding on aquatic plants; they can be seen occasionally in nearby fields. Around sunset the geese and swans return to Presley Creek for the night. The geese are VERY loud and their honking can be heard all over the neighborhood, even all night; the swans are very quiet and can be heard only if they are not in the company of the geese, who drown them out.
In case you are not familiar with the Tundra Swan, here is more information about them.
This photo was taken in 2017
This article is from the National Geographic
About the Tundra Swan
The snowy white tundra swan breeds in the Arctic and migrates many miles to winter on North America’s Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, bays, and lakes.
Range and Population
The eastern population frequents the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina, while the western population typically winters in California. These animals fly some 3,725 miles round-trip between their distant habitats, and make the daunting journey twice each year. Tundra swan subspecies also winter in Europe and Asia.
Tundra swans are often confused with trumpeter swans, and indeed the two species are very similar in appearance. They are most easily distinguished by their calls.
Tundra swans winter on the water and sleep afloat. They are strong and speedy swimmers that take to the air with a running start, clattering across the water’s surface with wings beating. In flight, the rhythmic flapping of the swan’s wings produces a tone that once earned it the name “whistling swan.”
These large birds feed by dipping their heads underwater to pluck aquatic plants, tubers, and roots. They also eat shellfish and are developing an increasing taste for grains and corn found in farmland areas.
Believed to mate for life, these swans actually pair up for nearly an entire year before breeding. Though in their winter grounds they gather in huge flocks, they breed as solitary pairs spread out across the tundra. Each couple defends a territory of about three-fourths square miles.
The bird’s tundra nests are large stick dwellings lined with moss and grasses. Ideally, they are situated close to a pond or other water source.
Females typically lay about four eggs and incubate them for 32 days while males guard the nest. Young chicks are protected from cold and predators, including swarms of voracious Arctic mosquitoes. Tundra swans can be nasty when aroused, and the birds may even be able to fend off predators like foxes and jaegers.
Despite the tundra swan’s dedicated efforts, its entire breeding season is subject to the whims of the Arctic climate. An early freeze or late spring may cause significant reproductive problems. Yet populations are stable, and the birds are managed and hunted for sport in some locales.
Here is an article on the Cornell University Ornithology Lab website.
This article is from the Audubon Field Guide.