Many websites contain information on swan identification. Rather than rework that information here, we recommend that you visit the sites listed below to learn more about swan ID, including their calls, as well as species that may look similar such as snow geese and white pelicans.
The Trumpeter Swan Society has an excellent Swan ID section. The information for this section was compiled and written by Martha Jordan, a leading expert on swan identification, during her time with TTSS. She currently is Executive Director of Northwest Swan Conservation Association.
When you finish with your experience there please come back to nwswans.org and try your skills with the swan ID photo gallery. The gallery is set up for you to practice honing your skills on identifying both Tundra and Trumpeter Swans and especially in distinguishing between the two species where they occur together.
We have set up the site so you can test your observational skills at finding Tundra and/or Trumpeter Swans in various situations—flying, field feeding, etc. Enjoy and have fun. Be patient. Use the key ID features you have learned or refer to them in our Swan ID Brochure to assist you as you work through the photos.
The answers are provided at the end in Answers. (can we make this a link to the Answers section directly?)
This page is a work in progress and new photos will be posted so you can continue to hone our skills.
An Online Test for those who want additional skill building experience:
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has an online Swan Hunter Orientation Course. While this test is designed to assist hunters in identifying swans in Utah, much of the information is useful for other areas of the country and birders.
Try it out, you do not have to give any personal information, just skip over the login and other stuff and go directly to the test. You do have to set up a sign in. They will not share your information or send you anything. It is a good test for skill building.
Photo 1. Tundra Swan on left, Trumpeter Swan on right
Photo 2. Trumpeter Swan and American wigeon. Note head and bill shape of swan.
Photo 3. A pair of Trumpeter swans. Female on left, male on right. This is shows how the sexes can sometimes substantially vary in size. A male and a small female paired together.
Photo 4. A family of Trumpeter Swans. Note the darker plumage, especially on the head and neck, of the juveniles and the color of their legs/feet. The legs/feet are heavily mottled at this age. The head shape is another key to ID.
Photo 5. Note the wide variation in head shape and the yellow spot on the lores. This is common in Tundra swans.
Photo 6. Tundra Swans- juvenile on left, adult on right. Note the head shape of both swans and the color of the juvenile. The juvenile is lighter gray and has black legs/feet. There is a yellow spot on the lore of the adult. Both have the eye distinct from the bill.
Photo 7. Red star is Tundra swan. Others are Trumpeters. The red arrow points to a neck band on a Trumpeter Swan. If you had a scope, it would read M21, reading from body to head on the collar.
Photo by Martha Jordan
The Northwest Swan Conservation Association is committed to the conservation of our native swans, both Trumpeter and Tundra, in Washington State and around the northwest region.