This Week’s Creature Feature ... Tundra Swans Arrive
These long-distance travelers migrate from the Arctic for our mild winters
The swans have landed.
In November, tundra swans succeed osprey as Chesapeake Country’s big new birds.
The snow-white swans average four feet in length and weigh between 13 to 20 pounds.
Tundra swans travel over 3,000 miles from above the Arctic Circle in Canada and Alaska, where they make their nests and babies. Upwards of 95,000 tundra swans winter in the relative warmth of the East Coast, from New Jersey to North Carolina, with the Chesapeake a prime winter haven.
Swans travel in flocks. Cygnets fly with their parents, learning the migration routes and stopover sites that lead to their wintering grounds.
The flocks move just ahead of winter, so their stops are infrequent. Flying in V-formations, with a slow and steady wing beat, they announce their impending arrival with loud, high-pitched hoo-hos.
Swans fly by day and night, moving south ahead of the freezing of their shallow-water feeding grounds. The big birds are dabblers, tipping upside-down to feed on marsh grasses.
Tundra swan numbers peak in January, and they stay with us through winter.