Swans flock to Nevada, Lake Tahoe on annual migration
LAKE TAHOE – It may be difficult to find 10 lords a-leaping or 11 pipers piping, but it’s easy to locate at least seven swans a-swimming in Nevada.
Thousands of the graceful, long-necked birds are making their annual wintertime pilgrimage to the Silver State from the Arctic tundra.
Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said more than 12,000 tundra swans either spend the winter in Nevada or pass through the desert state.
Tundra swans, also known as whistling swans, are the more common of two native swan species in North America. Smaller than trumpeter swans, they are distinguished by all-white plumage.
They breed in the Arctic tundra in the summer, then migrate south along the West and East coasts of North America.
Winter storms drive many swans along the Pacific Coast and inland to wintering areas in Nevada, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Utah.
Steve Kimble, NDOW game division supervisor, said stopover sites include freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers where aquatic plants can be found. Swans also can eat at farm fields.
“Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge and Fallon (60 miles east of Reno) are popular areas in Nevada to see the wintering swans,” he said.
Swans also have been spotted this month at Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake north of Reno and Washoe Lake south of Reno, agency officials said.
Over 300 swans arrived at Reno on Dec. 6, the same day the birds were seen in Dayton just east of Carson City.
A day later, hundreds of swans were observed flying south and west from Reno and Carson City, possibly headed for California or areas farther south in Nevada.
But they don’t fly too far south, said Keith Brose, supervisor of the NDOW-operated Overton Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mead.
“They do visit the Overton WMA, but are relatively uncommon,” Brose said. “Swans have been documented to winter on the lower Colorado River, but it is rare.”
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