Swan Identification

Photograph by Lowell Washburn Iowa DNR

Identification

There are three species of swans in North America. The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) and Tundra Swan (C. columbianus) are indigenous, while the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is a Eurasian species that has been introduced and now breeds in the wild in some areas. All three are very large all-white birds. The male swan is called the Cob. He typically weighs more and looks larger than the female (the Pen). Young-of- the-year swans are called Cygnets.

Click here for a handy, printable Swan and Goose Identification Brochure that will give you many excellent tips for what to look for while in the field. It's important to know!

Mute Swans are easily distinguished by the bright orange bill and distinctive knob on the forehead. Trumpeters and Tundras are similar looking species that are more difficult to identify. Reports from wildlife observers will help biologists monitor the recovery of Trumpeter Swans. Positive identification is essential, as Trumpeters often mix with flocks of the relatively common Tundra Swan throughout their migration and winter range.

Distinguishing Trumpeters from Tundras is not easy, but it is possible by paying close attention to a few distinctive characteristics.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Photograph by Gerald Plowman

Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan
Photograph by Martha Jordan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan
Photograph by Martha Jordan