Documentation of Tundra Swan

Observer Information

Reporter:  Andrew Spencer  3649 E. Phillips Ave.,   CENTENNIAL, CO  80122-3642
Other Observers:  Nick Komar, Cole Wild, and many others; Nick Komar

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Tundra Swan
First Date/Time:  11/16/2005
Last Date/Time:  11/16/2005
Duration (total time in view):  about 30 minutes
County:  Larimer
Specific Location:  College Lake
Number:  3
Age:  Unknown
Sex:  Unknown
Plumage:  Other/Unknown



Description of the Bird

the birds were typical swans, very large in size, with all white plumage and a long, thin neck. The youngster was the same shape, but with dusky brown plumage that was darkest on the head, and with random white feathers mixed in, especially on the wings and chest. They were slightly but noticeably smaller than the two adult Trumpeter Swans present at College Lake, and the the three at Cattail Pond.

The length of the necks on the birds were about 3/4 the length of the body. The curve of the back was uneven, with a noticeable peak just rear of center. The bills were smaller in relation to the head than the nearby Trumpeters, with more of a concavity to the culmen. On the young bird the bill was almost entirely pink, with a small amount of black on the tip and base. On the adults the bills were black with no discernable yellow. The cheek contour had an obvious sharp angle about halfway along the length, giving the bills more of a "stuck-on" appearance than the nearby Trumpeters. The eyes on the bird was isolated from the bill, with only a narrow piece of black skin connecting it to the bill, and on the youngster the eye was just about completely isolated. The feathering at the base of the bill on top was smoothly rounded, and did not stick out as far into the bill as the feathering on the same place on the Trumpeter Swans.
Behaviors: the birds were hanging out with the two Trumpeter Swans and a number of Canada Geese on the edge of the pond.
Call: none heard
Plumage: two adult and one juvenile

Similar Species Discussion

All species other than swans were ruled out by large size, white plumage, and long necks. Mute Swan was ruled out by the black bills and straight necks, and on the youngster by uneven dark plumage and pink and black bill.

Trumpeter Swan was ruled out by smaller size than the Trumpeters that were there, obvious angle on the cheek contour, uneven back contour, isolated eyes, smaller bills, the shape of the feathering on the base of the bills above, and on the young bird, large amount of pink in the bill. The amount of white on the young bird was also used as a supporting factor, as Trumpeter should be more evenly dusky brown this time of year. Neck length was used as a supporting factor.

Resources Used

Sibley was consulted in the field to confirm ID

Previous Experience

I have seen many swans of both species, and have studied a number of them closely in Colorado


Notes made DURING observation

Additional Information

Comments: report made from photos taken of the birds
Time: around 1:20 PM
Other Dates:
Nearest Town: Fort Collins
Independent Observers: Nick Komar

Materials Available

Photographer: Andrew Spencer

Photos |


Date Documentation Submitted

11/24/2005 10:49:00 AM
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