Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Case of Mistaken Identity?

I read a list which is continually updated by members at a birding site ( to see what types of birds are being seen in my area. The site has lists covering every state, so no matter where you live, you should be able to find a list that interests you. Someone on the list mentioned a pond where I have been filming recently and thought that a swan seen there was a Trumpeter. I have seen the swan for all of March at least, but I never looked at it very closely because it always stayed at the far end of the pond where it was difficult to see and Trumpeters are not suppose to be in this area, so I assumed it was a Tundra Swan.

The Trumpeter and Tundra Swans are difficult to separate in identity because the differences are subtle and subjective. In the past, it was easy to identify these swans because, it you lived in the East, it couldn't be a Trumpeter since they never came here. But that changed with the reintroduction of a breeding population in the Great Lakes area, so now, chances are better that it may be this species.

One thing that is different about this particular bird and has been obvious right along is it's comfortableness with not being with others of it's species. I have thought that was unusual from day one. It is the only Tundra Swan, if indeed it is a Tundra Swan, that I have seen willing to be alone.

Here is a recent photo of three Tundra Swans. One of the main features in identification is the little yellow area on the bill. You'll notice on the other photos, the swan has a completely black bill. The thing is, Tundra Swans can lack the yellow also. A better way to separate one from the other would be to view them full in the face. Unfortunately, I intentionally avoid filming a bird head on because it almost always looks odd. On many birds, the bill seems to disappear when looking at it straight on and it gives the bird a strange appearance. So, I don't have any photos showing the suspect bird head on.

I have sent several photos to a friend of mine who is an expert at identification. I'll let you know in a future post what he had to say, although I would be surprised if he can make a conclusive identification from the photos I sent him.

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