March 1, 2020
I took the morning to go north and investigate the birding potential at Market Lake. Sadly it is still iced over. I noticed birds on my way there, and stopped in Blackfoot on the way back to check out a field of geese and swans. A lovely morning of driving and birding.
Juvenile Golden eagle at Blackfoot
Trumpeter swans landing at Blackfoot
Trumpeter swans are both migrants and residents in my region. And it seems I learn something new about them all the time. First I had to learn the difference between a Trumpeter and a Tundra (previously called Whistling) swan. The biggest difference is size. Usually this isn’t very helpful since the two types of swans rarely stand side by side for easy comparison. On the other hand, there are so many Canada geese in my area that they are frequently seen with or near the swans. As long as a C. goose is nearby it’s easy to tell the Trumpeter from a Tundra.
- A Canada goose is somewhere between 29.9 and 43.3 inches according to:
- A Tundra swan = 47.2-57.9 inches
- A Trumpeter swan = 54.3-62.2 inches
In my region they tend to be a bit larger than the geese but not supersized, unlike their cousins.
These are huge birds and make the geese look small.
Here’s a look at Trumpeter swans (both adult and one year olds) near a bunch of Canada geese. The size differential is clear.
Another thing you can see in the picture above is the gray/brown coloring of the juveniles.
Still another thing to look for especially in the spring, is whether or not there is a yellow/yellowish spot at the base of the bill near the eye. In my region this spot tends to be small, but it can be quite a substantial mark. Finally the bill shape is quite different. I like to think of the Trumpeter swan as having a Roman nose. In horse head terms this is a slight to serious convex shape. The Tundra swans have an Arabian bill, meaning it is dished or a bit concave like Arabian horse heads. Yeah, I know, weird way to remember things but I loved horses long before I became a bird addict.
Here’s one of our swans showing off his roman bill shape.
I got quite excited when I spotted this swan with yellow legs. I discovered that this is common as are pink legs on juvenile Trumpeter swans. So here we have a fully white juvenile, we can only tell its youth by size and leg color.
A day of swans and driving. – Jenny
Birds of the day
- Black billed magpies
- Rough legged hawk (1)
- Rock doves
- House sparrows
- Red winged blackbirds
- European starlings
- Canada geese
- Eurasian collared doves
- Northern flickers (2)
- Trumpeter swans (8) – Blackfoot