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Tundra Swan

Cygnus Columbianus - "Qugruk"

Population Status


Breeding/nesting: Tundra Swans breed at low densities throughout the coastal plain. They are restricted largely to within 10 km of the coast and are most common in the major river deltas.

Moulting: Moulting occurs within the vicinity of their nesting grounds. Significant concentrations occur in the Babbage River Delta and Tent Island. Smaller concentrations are found on the Firth and Malcolm river deltas and at Clarence Lagoon.

Population size:

Based on winter counts, the entire eastern population of Tundra Swans is roughly estimated to be 80,000. Densities of nesting swans are low on the coastal plain, at roughly 0.1-0.2/km2 in the lowlands and at 0.1-0.2/km2 in the upland coastal plain. The most current census (1990) revealed a density of 0.26 swans/km2 on the lowlands of the Yukon coastal plain. A rough estimate of the numbers of Tundra Swans on the Yukon North Slope is between 600 and 1000. There is a concentration of swans during the moulting period, particularly in Moose Channel in the Mackenzie Delta and in the Babbage River delta, including Phillips Bay where numbers have been known to increase five-fold at this time. The highest concentration of moulting swans occurs on Tent Island, in the Babbage River delta, and in Phillips Bay. In Phillips Bay, as many as 129 swans have been observed at one time.

Population trend:

The entire population is believed to be increasing. However, based on summer transects in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the population of swans in the region declined from 1989 to 1990.

Habitat Features

The major river deltas and the islands within the deltas on the Yukon North Slope represent key habitat for Tundra Swans, particularly during the late summer when swans are moulting.



Under the IFA, the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee has the authority to develop bylaws that apply to the Inuvialuit harvest of specific species, should such bylaws be needed. NWT regulations must then reflect these bylaws. Bylaws may also be reflected in Ivvavik National Park regulations and Yukon wildlife regulations. There are currently no Aklavik HTC bylaws in place for Tundra Swan.

From 1988 to 1999 Inuvialuit harvest data was collected through the Inuvialuit Harvest Study. In the period from 1988 to 1997, the average annual harvest reported by Aklavik residents was 14. Funding and support for the collection of harvest data is supplied through the IFA and other agencies.


A Migratory Bird Protocol, which sets out provisions for spring hunting, has been agreed upon by Canada and the United States and has been ratified by Canada. Migratory Birds Regulations prohibit the harvest of swans in Canada by sport hunters.

Harvesting Rights
Ivvavik National Park Exclusive None Permitted
Herschel Island Territorial Park Exclusive None Permitted
East of the Babbage River Preferential None Permitted
Adjoining NWT Exclusive on Inuvialuit lands and preferential on Crown lands None Permitted


Tundra Swans are highly visible and, to many people, a symbol of wilderness. They are a valuable component of any wilderness experience on the North Slope.


Increased hydrocarbon activity on the Yukon North Slope has the potential to threaten swan populations. A more immediate threat is the continual reduction of wintering habitat along the US east coast. The effects of climate change are unknown.

Species at Risk Status

Yukon: none


CITES: none

Research and Monitoring

Population monitoring:

There is an ongoing program to record species observed on Herschel Island.


Tundra Swan breeding densities were derived incidental to a Canadian Wildlife Service study of white-fronted geese from 1988-1993.

From 2001 to 2003, a study was undertaken to monitor the numbers and productivity of tundra swans in relation to potential natural gas development in the Mackenzie River Delta (Swystun, H., J. Hines, and R. Dawson, 2005).




The North American Waterfowl Management Plan guides management of Tundra Swans.

Management Jurisdictions
Ivvavik National Park IFA, Migratory Birds Convention, Migratory Birds Regulations Parks Canada Migratory Birds Convention

North American Waterfowl Management Plan

Arctic Goose Joint Venture
Nesting, moulting
Hershel Island Territorial Park Yukon Wildlife Act YTG Incidental
East of the Babbage River National Parks Act YTG Nesting, moulting
Adjoining NWT NWT Wildlife Act GNWT Nesting, moulting

To meet conservation goals of the IFA, the co-management bodies are mandated to determine and recommend (to the governments of Yukon and the NWT, the Canadian Wildlife Service and Parks Canada) a total allowable harvest and/ or promote research, if and when required.

Community-based Information

Community-based information on this species may also be found in the reports of the annual community-based monitoring program conducted in Aklavik and neighbouring communities by the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op.

Related Literature and Information Sources

Eckert, C.D., 2007. Personal communication, Government of Yukon, Department of Environment.

Hawkings, J. 2002. Personal Communication, Canadian Wildlife Service, Whitehorse.

Jingfors, K. 1989. Wildlife of Northern Yukon National Park, Chapter 9 in: Northern Yukon National Park resource description and analysis. Natural Resource Conservation Section, Canadian Parks Service, Prairie and Northern Region, Winnipeg.

Joint Secretariat, 2003. Inuvialuit Harvest Study, Data and Methods Report 1988 - 1997. Inuvik, NT.

Sinclair P.H., W.A. Nixon, C.D. Eckert and N.L. Hughes (eds). 2003. Birds of the Yukon Territory. UBC Press Vancouver. 596 pp.

Swystun, H. A., J. E. Hines, and R. D. Dawson. 2005. Monitoring the numbers and productivity of Tundra Swans in relation to potential natural gas development in the Mackenzie River Delta, Western Canadian Arctic, 2001-2003. Technical Report Series No. 438 Canadian Wildlife Service, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Yukon Bird Club. 2000. Check list of the birds of Herschel Island.