Montana Outdoors

February 6, 2008


Filed under: Birds, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — Tags: — montucky @ 12:38 pm

Along a lonely stretch of the lower Flathead river yesterday as we returned from a trip to the city we could see these swans on the river. It is the only place around here where I can recall ever seeing swans, and not too often there. They were very wild and I was unable to approach very close to them, so the pictures are not that good, but they are fairly rare around here and for that reason are of considerable interest to me.

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans

My best guess is that they are Tundra swans. Their markings are right, but they seem to be smaller than Tundra swans, which have 5 – 6 foot wingspans. It could be just because of the distance that they appear smaller though. If anyone has a more positive identification, please let me know.



  1. Cool photos! I’d imagine they’re Tundra Swans, as those are the most numerous of the native swans. They usually (but not always) have some yellow on their bills, though, which I don’t see here. According to Sibley, Tundra Swans are our smallest swans.

    They’re not (introduced) Mute Swans, which one would only expect on city park ponds, and which have bright orange bills. Possibly Trumpeter Swans I suppose, but I’d want a much closer look before calling them as that, since Trumpeters aren’t common.

    Size is extremely difficult to judge, especially from a distance, so I wouldn’t put much into that. That said, Trumpeter Swans are much larger than Tundra Swans (80-inch vs 66-inch wingspan, and 9 pounds heavier).

    So yeah, I’d call them Tundra Swans in absence of any reason not to šŸ™‚


    Comment by Adam R. Paul — February 6, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  2. Thanks for your input, Adam! I’m pretty sure they aren’t Trumpeters, although I understand a few have been seen around here. I’ll try to get back there for another look when I get a chance, but it’s in an area that’s very difficult for stalking anything.


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  3. How wonderful to be able to see swans in winter.
    I especially like the bottom picture of the swans in flight.
    I have no idea what kind they are, but they are exquisite.


    Comment by ak_adventurer — February 6, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  4. The swans are magnificent, but I’m also, for some reason, enamored with the texture of the water.



    Comment by Pinhole — February 6, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

  5. Alaska Adventurer,

    Yes, it is great to see them. They do have an elegant look about them, even when flying. I remember seeing swans in that place as far back as the 40’s: seeing them even once is memorable. My mother especially liked them.


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  6. Pinhole,

    The water they were in is a channel on one side of a small island. There must have been just enough breeze to ripple the water without creating wind waves as it would have done in larger water. It does give it an unusual look. A few miles down stream the canyon narrows a lot and often there will be a strong wind blowing up it that will create waves a couple feet high.


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  7. I suck at taxonomies and nomenclatures; but I can say that they look beautiful, whatever swans they are! šŸ™‚


    Comment by Sumedh — February 6, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  8. Yes, they are beautiful, aren’t they? Another of nature’s creatures that isn’t exactly rare, but all the same is not seen and enjoyed all that often by many folks. I have seen pretty swans in domestic settings, but to me these are really special because they are wild and free.


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  9. Seeing swans in the wild is always a surprise for me. But a good one!



    Comment by knightofswords — February 6, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  10. lovely to look at-wild indeed….my mom had a memorable run in with a swan-she was attacked by one, requiring surgery to repair the damages!

    here are some other flying creatures I think you will like

    this was taken near Fredericksburg TX in summer 06


    Comment by silken — February 6, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

  11. Malcolm,

    Yup! I can take a lot of surprises like that!


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

  12. silken,

    Domestic geese and swans can get pretty aggressive! It’s about impossible to get close enough to the wild ones though to see it they would also.

    Yes, I do like the bats. I wish we had all of those up here in mid-summer when the mosquitoes are thick!


    Comment by montucky — February 6, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  13. you found swans!! That is so amazingly cool. I’ve been looking but have yet to hit on a gold mine like you have. That is so great! Beautiful shots! (oh that red color on my face? complete envy!!!!)


    Comment by aullori — February 10, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  14. I don’t know what attracts the to a certain place, but I have memories of them in that place many years ago, bu nowhere else around here. Yes, they are really cool!


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  15. Fabulous, I’m almost ready to go out into the snow.


    Comment by wrjones — February 11, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  16. At the moment the snow is melting so you may not have to!


    Comment by montucky — February 11, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

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