See tundra swans at free viewing events

(Phil Douglass/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
Thousands of tundra swans are currently migrating through Utah. The birds...
Story by Standard-Examiner staff
March 12, 2013
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National budget cuts may have put the kibosh on one event highlighting the annual migration of tundra swans through Utah, but the swans are still here, and state wildlife officials are staging viewing events at two Top of Utah locations this weekend.

This Saturday, the Division of Wildlife Resources will host Utah’s annual Tundra Swan Day at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area west of Farmington and Salt Creek WMA west of Corinne. Admission is free.

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was planning on holding a Tundra Swan Day on Saturday as well, but on March 5, personnel at the refuge announced that the event had been canceled because of cuts in the federal budget.

The Bear River Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency, but Farmington Bay and Salt Creek are run by the state. Viewing at the Farmington Bay and Salt Creek WMAs will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with spotting scopes available for the public to get a close look at the swans.

Those who can’t attend the March 16 event can still get out and watch swans on their own. Phil Douglass, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR, said the Salt Creek WMA west of Corinne is the best place to get a close look at the graceful birds.

When the swan migration peaks in mid-March, as many as 35,000 swans will be in Utah. Twice a year, tundra swans migrate more than 3,725 miles round-trip between breeding areas in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic and wintering areas in eastern and western North America.

There are two populations of tundra swans in North America — one in the east and one in the west. In summer, the swans breed in the Canadian Arctic and in Alaska. The eastern population winters along the Atlantic Coast on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and in North Carolina. The western population breeds on the west coast of Alaska and winters on the Pacific Coast and in the Central Valley of California.

In Utah, the calls of wild swans can be heard echoing across marshes during spring, fall and winter. Western populations arrive in the Great Salt Lake area in late October and begin departing by early December en route to their wintering grounds. In spring, they return and by late March, have departed from Utah toward their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada.

This large white bird is the most common of the three species of swans found in North America. The tundra swan has white plumage and black legs, feet, and bill. Most adult tundra swans have a yellow patch between the eyes and the base of the bill, distinguishing them from their rarer cousin, the trumpeter swan.

For Utahns, the arrival of the tundra swans is a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.

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