Similar Species and Hybrids

There are two other large white birds that may be confused with swans: Snow Geese and American White Pelican.

Snow Goose

Less than one-half the size of a swan; total bill length is about 2"; bill is shorter compared to head length than in swans; bill does not extend very close to eye. The face and upper neck may be a rusty color from iron staining that occurs while feeding.

Wing span about 3 feet, black wing tips, pink bill with black grinning patch on both sides of the bill, and orange legs and feet. They congregate in large flocks, often many thousands of birds. Juvenile plumage is gray with beginning black on the wing tip area.

Snow Goose
Photograph by Bonnie Block

Snow Goose adult, white phase. Black wing tips, pink feet.

Snow Goose
Photograph by Dennis Paulson

Snow Goose juvenile - gray plumage, black starting on wing tips.

Snow Goose
Photograph by Gerald Plowman

Snow Goose com'in at you. Black wing tips visible.

Snow Goose
Photograph by Bonnie Block

Snow Goose: rusty color is from iron staining of feathers when rooting in soils for crops or wetland plants.

American White Pelican

An all white bird with black wing tips and a very large all yellow bill. The feet are bright orange. Wing span about 110 inches (9 feet). Flies with neck tucked.

American White Pelican
Photograph by Gerald Plowman

American White Pelican - black wing tips, very large yellow bill, orange feet.

Similar Swan Species (native to Europe or Asia) observed in North America

Bewick's Swan

European version of our Tundra Swan, they are considered the same species. They winter in Europe and England, breed in the eastern hemisphere high arctic. They are the same size and shape as our Tundra Swan but there is significantly more yellow on the bill, usually not going across the top of the bill. They have the same voice as the Tundra Swan. Rare visitor to west coast swan use areas.

Bewick's Swan
Photograph by Steve Meladinow

Bewick's Swan - the two center birds, adult and juvenile (neck folded back on body). Compare to Tundra Swan at back.

Whooper Swan

Native to Europe and Asia, breed in the high arctic of the eastern hemisphere. Similar to Trumpeter Swan in size and shape, but the yellow on the bill is extensive, running over the top. There is also a yellow spot under the lower bill at the base. Voice of Whooper is distinct, whooooping call. Very different from the Trumpeter Swan. Rare winter visitor to North America.

Whooper Swan
Photograph by Dennis Hayden

Whooper Swan adult - Note the Trumpeter Swan in the background for comparison.

HYBRIDS

There have been rare instances where a swan of one species has paired with a swan of a different species and produced young. This has been observed in captive bred swans for a long time. In the wild it is a rare occurrence. The following are photos of hybrid swans in the wild.

Trumpeter Swan x Mute Swann
Photographer unknown

Trumpeter Swan x Mute Swan - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, wild mating.

Tundra Swan x Mute Swan
Photographer unknown

Tundra Swan x Mute Swan - Kentucky area, observed in the wild.

While some researchers have suggested that there are Trumpeter Swan x Tundra Swan hybrids in the wild, no documented photo of this hybrid mix is available. There are several instances of this happening in captive situations. There is a wide variation with the hybridization grading from more Tundra-like to more Trumpeter-like. The call is an off note blend of both species but not like either species.