Freezing Waters

I took a hike to where I could see the big part of Crane Lake to see if it had froze over. There was still open water way out in the middle. Despite the chilly temperature of 19 degrees, Thanksgiving, was a beautiful clear and calm day.

Listening to the sounds of the woods, there was a new sound that wasn’t familiar to me. Then a group of Swans swam into view. Wow! there were 4 swans in total: 2 adults which were completely white and 2 juveniles which were gray. I tried to speculate if they were Tundra Swans or Trumpeter Swans, as these two species of Swan occur in Minnesota.

Most likely these are Tundra Swans as I compared the wheezy sound they were making to my Stokes Bird Song cd. These two species of Swan are very hard to tell apart. They are very close in size and out in the field with no relative references, size can be hard to differentiate. Tundra Swans do have yellow lores (area right before the eyes), but not all Tundra Swans have the yellow lores or they can be hard to see.

One way to tell the difference is by comparing several components

  • Time of year
  • size of group
  • behavior
  • voice
  • bill shape

Tundra Swans only migrate through Minnesota, they nest in the far north on the tundra. You should only see Tundras in the spring and fall. They usually travel in large flocks and their voices are more like geese. Tundra Swans used to be call Whistling Swans because of their calls.

Trumpeter Swans do breed in Minnesota, in fact there has been a very successful re-introduction program here in Minnesota. So if you see a swan in the summertime, most likely it is a Trumpeter. Also, a small “family” group of swans are more likely Trumpeters. Trumpeters have completely black bills. Trumpeter Swans have a great voice, they have a loud deep resonanting honk that sounds like a old car horn. Hence the name!

Follow this link for more info about Tundra Swans and their migration:

to see a video of a pair of Trumpeter Swans:



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