American Game Birds

Illustrating More Than One Hundred Species In Natural Colors

By Chester A. Reed

Page 25

WHISTLING SWAN (Olor columbianus). These great birds, measuring nearly 5 feet in length, are still not uncommon in the interior and also occur in numbers on the South Atlantic coast. They nest only in high latitudes, chiefly on Arctic islands and the mainland from northern Hudson Bay to Alaska. This, the smallest of our two species, can best be identified by the form of the bill. The nostril is located about midway between the eye and the extreme tip, while that of the next species is nearer the eye than it is to the tip of the bill. The present species also has a small yellow spot between the eye and nostril.

     During migration, swans fly at a great elevation in a long V-shaped line with an wise old gander at the apex. Their flight is swift and very easy and graceful, as their wings are of enormous size, easily capable of carrying even such heavy bodies. From time to time, the leader or some of the band utter clear flageolet-like notes that reach the ground like voices from the sky, as the swans may be so high as to be almost invisible. When within sight of their final stopping places, they set their wings and gradually float downward, circle around so as to come up against the winds and then plump into the water with great splashes. They are most beautiful sights, either in flight or as they sit lightly and gracefully on the water. They feed chiefly upon grasses and roots that they pull up from the bottom, usually in water shallow enough so that they do not have to "tip up." They seldom come to decoys, but arc shot by gunners in ambush between their feeding and resting places, or they are taken by sailing down on them before the wind, the swans having to flap vigorously against the wind before being able to leave the water.


TRUMPETER SWAN (Olor buccinator). This species measures more than 5 feet in length and differs otherwise as stated above. It is quite rare now, but breeds west of Hudson Bay and winters in southwestern United States and the lower Mississippi Valley.