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Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)

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Swan Song

The idea of the "swan song" recurs from Aesop to Ovid to Plato to Tennyson. Ovid described it, "There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song." But it's based on a sweet fallacy - that a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth, vocalization

Swans Come Calling

Trumpeter Swans land in a plowed field to forage for remnant potatoes, grain, and other waste crops. This swan is among the largest of all waterfowl; the Tundra Swan is somewhat smaller. These swans migrate in family groups each fall from nesting sites in Canada and Alaska. Learn more about these... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Swans on Valentine's Day

Swans have long exalted the human heart. Among the world's most magnificent creatures, swans inspire us, especially on Valentine's Day. On a lake, an adult pair of swans glides serenely, side by side, a classic symbol of love. And they have earned their reputation for fidelity. Swans mate for... read more »

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Sir Walter Raleigh's Bird Book

When Sir Walter Raleigh wanted to tempt English settlers to the new lands of Virginia, he planned a novel marketing technique: a bird book. He commissioned Thomas Harriot and John White to document the birds on an island in present-day North Carolina. Harriot, a linguist, recorded the names of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

Which Bird Has the Most Feathers

In general, the bigger the bird, the higher the number of feathers. Someone counted the feathers on a Tundra Swan and came up with 25,216. At least 80% were on the swan’s neck. Penguins, on the other hand, have lots of small feathers all over their bodies. The largest species is the Emperor... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  plumage

Welcoming Back Winter Birds

Although we may think of autumn as the end of the growing season, a sort of winding down in the natural world, for birds it’s as much a season of renewal as the spring. In the colder months, we welcome back our winter birds — juncos, swans, and more — which spent the summer in their breeding... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birding, birdwatching
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