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Thread: Swan Identification Guide

  1. #1

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    Default Swan Identification Guide

    An Introduction to Swan Identification

    There are two native species of swans in North America.

    These are the larger Trumpeter Swan (24 to 27 lbs) and the smaller Tundra Swan (16 to 18 lbs). The exotic Mute Swan was introduced to North America from Europe in the late 1800s.

    Although the Trumpeter Swan and the Tundra Swan may look similar to one another there are a few differences that will help the beginner to identify these three species of swans.

    1) The Trumpeter Swan is larger ... about 1 1/2 times the size of the Tundra Swan.

    Tip: The word "trumpeter" (three syllables and nine letters) is bigger than the word "tundra" (two syllables and six letters). Therefore remember that the Trumpeter Swan is bigger than the Tundra Swan by 1 1/2 times (24 to 27 lbs compared to 16 to 18 lbs).

    Tip: Remember that the weight (high end) of a Trumpeter Swan is the product of its three syllables times its nine letters (3 x 9 = 27). The Tundra Swan is 2/3 of that weight (18).

    2) The Trumpeter Swan's bill and head are "wedge shaped" whereas the Tundra Swan's bill and head are more "curved and round" in shape.

    Tip: Think of the Canvasback Duck (a larger duck with a red "wedge shaped" head) compared to the Redhead Duck (a smaller duck with a red "round shaped" head).

    Although the Mute Swan is as large as a Trumpeter Swan it has a distinctly orange bill and as the name implies is silent (for the most part). However the Mute Swan will aggressively "hiss" at humans and other waterfowl in the marsh ... a notable "bully" towards other waterfowl.

    Note that both the Greater Snow Goose and the Lesser Snow Goose (white phase) have black wing tips while all of the swans have white wing tips.

    For more information on swan identification see The Trumpeter Swan Society's web site and "click" on the Swan Identification Brochure tab.

    Jerome Katchin, D.V.M.

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  3. #2
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    Great stuff. Have printed this off. Thanks.

  4. #3

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    Not to be confused with a white egret sighting which was in my area a few years ago way off the road in a flooded area, had to get the long range cam out for a pic to get an ID on that one.

  5. #4

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    The sad thing is the collateral damage that occurs when these birds are hunted. The average hunter lacks the ability to correctly identify species on the wing, especially in low light conditions that often occur during hunting. A bunch of protected Trumpeters are mistakenly harvested when Tundras and Trumpeters occur in the same area. A good example is down in the state of Utah, where the swan hunt (for Tundras) has now been cancelled early for the past three seasons due to excessive Trumpeter harvest. Trumpeters are now starting to migrate through the state more often now and many hunters appear to lack the ability to correctly identify a Tundra. The state sets a 20 Trumpeter limit for accidental harvest and then they cancel the swan hunt once this limit is met. I'd love to see the Canadian Wildlife Service pull their heads out of the muck and do something (based on sound science ) to manage the southern Ontario Mute Swan disaster before we have no native waterfowl left breeding in any of our great lakes marshes. I'd like to take one of those "mini gun" rotary machine guns (the kind that Jessie "The Body" Venurra carried in "Predator") to Presquile in the fall. It literally makes me vomit every fall when I see 4000+ Mutes out in Weller's Bay, and you realize the ecological damage that is being done to our wetlands. The average Ontarian doesn't want to shoot the majestic Delsey Bathroom bird from the castle moat.

  6. #5

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    798 Highway 59
    Port Rowan, Ontario
    N0E 1M0

    March 29, 2022

    Mr. Toby Barrett
    MPP, Haldimand-Norfolk
    Post Office Box 91
    Simcoe, Ontario
    N3Y 4K8

    Re: Delist the Mute Swan

    Dear Mr. Toby Barrett:

    The issue regarding delisting the Mute Swan from the List of Protected Species needs to be addressed since this is an invasive species that should never have been added to the list in the first place ... please correct the mistake now.

    I have included two photographs of the inner part of Long Point Bay behind my house ... one how a wetland should look like at this time of year with Canada Geese, Canvasbacks, Red Heads, Bluebills, Ring-Necks, Buffleheads and Coots feeding and another how the same wetland actually looks like at this time of year after the Mute Swans arrive in the area.

    The second photograph only shows six (6) Mute Swans behind my house but there were actually 24 Mute Swans forming a "wall" behind our four (4) properties (one property is a double lot) at the time.


    Jerome Katchin, D.V.M.

    PS The photographs were taken on March 27 and March 28, 2022.
    PS The swans, geese, ducks and coots were about 40 meters from my sea wall and the species mentioned above were identified using regular (7 x 35) binoculars.


    Dr. L. Lewis, Member of Parliament, Haldimand-Norfolk
    Mr. J. Hughes, Manager, Wildlife & Habitat Assessment, Ontario Region, CWS
    Dr. J. Leafloor, Acting Head, Aquatic Unit, Prairie Region, CWS
    Mr. J. Fisher, Vice-President of Canadian Policy, Delta Waterfowl
    Mr. S. McGuigan, Development Director, Delta Waterfowl
    Mr. A. Lombardo, Executive Director, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Mr. M. Ryckman, Manager of Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Mr. J. Stewart, Acting Manager, Wildlife Section, Conservation Policy, NDMNRF

  7. #6

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    Hello Fenelon,

    I thank you for your opinion and for the latest "incidental" Trumpeter Swan harvest numbers regarding the last three (3) years. I used the quotation marks with the word incidental since some of the Trumpeter Swans harvested may not have been incidental in nature for the following reasons:

    1) The Trumpeter Swan is a "migratory game bird" and the hunting of them is permitted under the Migratory Birds Convention of 1916 (the Migratory Birds Convention Act was passed by Canada in 2017 and the Migratory Bird Act was passed by the United States in 1918).

    2) The legal harvesting (hunting) of Trumpeter Swans was appropriately banned in both Canada and the United States at that time due to the extremely low number of birds.

    3) The "Tundra Swan Season" established for the Western Population of Tundra Swans in parts of Montana, Nevada and Utah was changed to a "General Swan Season" in 1995 with a Trumpeter Swan being a legally harvested bird for the first time due to their ever increasing population. However the deliberate harvesting of a Trumpeter Swan was stongly discouraged and the subsequent annual incidental harvest numbers would indicate that waterfowlers were cooperating accordingly.

    4) In 1995 Montana had no limit on the number of Trumpeter Swans that could be harvested while Utah and Nevada had a limit of 15 and 5 birds respectively. The limit for Utah was then reduced to 10 birds in 2000. The Management Plan for the Western Population of Tundra Swans was revised in 2017 and I did not notice any changes regarding the Trumpeter Swan limit for these three (3) states.

    5) The total number of Trumpeter Swans harvested (deliberately or incidentally) in Montana, Nevada and Utah between 1995 and 2016 has averaged 9.6 birds per year. Considering that Montana has had 500 tags, Utah has had 2000 tags and Nevada has had 650 tags to distribute every year (depending upon the demand In each state) since 2003 this would indicate that the incidental harvest of Trumpeter Swans has been insignificant.

    6) The United States Fish and Wildlife Sevice estimated in 2017 that the Trumpeter Swan population is increasing by 10,000 birds annually so some waterfowlers may be deliberately and legally harvesting a Trumpeter Swan during the "General Swan Season" in their state.

    I recently offered to sponsor an organization (through a grant from The Dr. Jerome Katchin Waterfowl Foundation) to develop a "Swan Identification Course" designed for the Province of Ontario that could be use to facilitate the implementation of a limited (tag only) Tundra Swan season for this province.

    Such a course in conjunction with perhaps a "No Swan Hunt Zone" in areas of the province where Trumpeter Swans are more numerous (as I have previously suggested) could minimize (not eliminate) the risk of an incidental harvest of a Trumpeter Swan as required.

    The Management Plan for the Eastern Population of Tundra Swans specifically states under "Harvest Objective" on page 25 that "seasons should not be precluded by the possibility of an occasional Trumpeter Swan being shot". This is consistent with the Management Plan for the Interior Population of Trumpeter Swans, the Management Plan for the Western Population of Tundra Swans, the Management Plan for the Rocky Mountain Population of Trumpeter Swans and is endorsed by the Central Flyway Council, the Pacific Flyway Council and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

    I respectfully request that you help with the implementation of a limited (tag only) Tundra Swan season for Ontario to ensure that we protect our local Trumpeter Swan population where possible while also providing opportunities for Ontario waterfowlers to hunt Tundra Swans as permitted under their respective management plan.


  8. #7
    Just starting out

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    Seen these swans on the Trent River just up from Percy Boom.
    The one swan has a tag on what looks like each wing. Any idea what this might be? I believe it said Y10 on the tags.
    Would this affect there ability to fly? From what I seen it wasn’t having any trouble.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #8
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    Those tags are pretty common down here. A group was tagging them at Lasalle park in Burlington for years. I am Not sure if it is still being done but there would be hundreds with these tags. It did not hinder their flight at all. One problem is they looked terrible when you took a photo.
    They were doing tags on Egrets also for a couple of years.

  10. #9

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    Hello Roffey,

    Thank you for posting those pictures of the Trumpeter Swans with the yellow "wing tags" on one of them ... indicating that the bird was tagged in Ontario.

    You can report your sighting of these Trumpeter Swans to the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group as they keep a running log on where their tagged birds are seen ... especially that this one appears to be paired up with a potential mate.

    As previously indicated by "rodmcd" the tags do not hinder the swan's ability to fly at all and I believe that they continue to tag Trumpeter Swans every year.

    Last edited by Buddy Boy; April 4th, 2022 at 03:44 PM.

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