Juvenile Swan Identification

Both Trumpeter and Tundra juveniles are gray in fall and winter. Tundras are brighter silvery gray with black legs and feet. Trumpeters are darker sooty gray, especially in the head and neck area, and their leg and foot color is primarily yellow-orange mottling with some black. Tundra juveniles begin turning white in late December and by mid March are nearly all white. Trumpeter juveniles usually remain darker gray longer, with gray feathers on the head and neck persisting well into spring. In winter, Trumpeter juveniles may vary in age by up to 6 weeks due to geographic differences in hatching dates. As a result, they show considerable individual and geographic variation in the timing of their molt into white plumage. Tundra bill color is usually mottled pink with black tip, with less black at the base than Trumpeters. Trumpeter bills are black at base and tip with a pink middle. Juvenile bill color in winter gradually shifts to all black in both species.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Photographer unknown

Trumpeter Swans (fore-ground) in January: juveniles still dark gray, bills substantially black.

Trumpeter Swan
Photograph by Don Knutson

Trumpeter Swan with mottled legs and typical neck posture at rest.

Trumpeter Swan
Photograph by Dave Weaver

Trumpeter Swan head study showing bill variation in late winter and substantial new white feathering on body, while extensive grey feathers persist on neck and head. Reddish stain is acquired from feeding in iron-rich sediments and varies greatly among individuals.

Trumpeter Swan
Photograph by Duke Conrood

Trumpeter Swan juvenile in late February, substantial gray still present.

Trumpeter Swan
Photographer unknown

A subadult, 2-year-old Trumpeter Swan, legs still orange/black mottled.

Trumpeter Swan
Photograph by Jess Lee

Trumpeter subadults, likely 2-3 years old, as evidenced by mottled leg color on the dark-legged swan. The yellow legs indicate the rare leucystic color phase. Leucystic Trumpeters are born white, do not go through the gray juvenile plumage phase, and often have very bright yellow legs as adults.

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan
Photographer unknown

Tundra Swan family - note all black legs on juveniles, more pink on bills than in Trumpeters.

Tundra Swan
Photograph by Michael Hobbs

Tundra Swan with pale gray plumage, pink bill with black base and tip.

Tundra Swan
Photographer unknown

Tundra Swans in early December, plumage all light gray, legs black.

Tundra Swan
Photograph by Ron Dexter

Tundra Swan in mid January, nearly all white body, yellow showing on lore, black legs.

Tundra Swan
Photograph by Steve Meladinow

Tundra Swan with light gray plumage, black legs.

Tundra Swan
Photograph by Steve Meladinow

Comparison of Trumpeter Swan (foreground) and Tundra Swan (rear) juveniles, mid-December.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan
Photographer unknown

Mute Swan juvenile plumage is white with brownish splotches; bill gray with black base. Legs and feet are black.