Imagine you are standing in Pinery Provincial Park.
You close your eyes and enjoy the peace of nature around you. Suddenly, a loud yodel interrupts the silence! That incredible sound is actually thousands of birds singing en masse as they fly over the park in search of their next feeding spot.
This unforgettable experience is courtesy of the Tundra Swan.
Pinery Provincial Park is located about three hours west of Toronto.
Flocks of tundra swans resting at Thedford Bog. Photographer: Alistair MacKenzie
If you visit Pinery during March, you may see and hear up to 60,000 tundra swans passing by on their way to their Arctic breeding grounds.
Starting from their winter home in the southern Chesapeake Bay and moving north, swans are in a race against time to reach their final breeding site in Hudson Bay.
But don’t wait: the swans will likely be gone by the last week of March or the first week of April. If there is too much snow, they may fly over Pinery entirely or stop in smaller numbers.
Pinery will post regular updates on the arrival of swans in Twitter. You can also call the park at 519-243-2220.
an ancient journey
Tundra swans in flight over Thedford Bog, near Pinery Provincial Park
According to National Heritage Education Lead Alistair Mackenzie, the journey of the tundra swan is fascinating.
Swans follow the same route that glaciers took when they retreated north after the last ice age. For thousands of years, tundra swans have nested and bred in Arctic-like conditions. Now, the same conditions exist in Hudson Bay. however, thousands of years ago it would have been in these parts of southern Ontario. As the ice receded, the swans continued north.
Now their migratory routes essentially follow that retreat. They will fly as far north as possible and find staging areas like Pinery. There, they will rest for a period of hours or days and replenish their resources. They will rest, feed and prepare for the next leg of the journey.
“It is a wonderful natural spectacle to see this. I feel humbled when I think about how easy our life is,” Alistair said.
Very good, huh?
Fun facts about tundra swans
- Swans have a wingspan of 52″ (132 cm) and a body mass of 14.4 pounds (6,600 g).
- Tundra swans have more than 28,000 feathers. This is the largest known species on the planet! No wonder they head north every summer – it would be like wearing a down coat all year round!
- According to the Sibley Guide to North American Birds, its voice is “melancholy, clear, singing ‘klooo’ or ‘kwooo’ with a hooting or barking quality.”
- Tundra swans lay a single clutch of three to seven eggs.
The return of the Tundra Swans is an experience that the whole family can enjoy.
Little ones will love hearing how swans travel as a family, bringing last year’s babies with them on this essential journey. Play a game by asking your children to identify the babies by their grayish necks. See if your kids can guess what swans eat too! The answer? Snails, other invertebrates and agricultural waste such as soybeans and corn.
Be sure to dress warmly for your swan-watching trip and bring binoculars just in case. Park staff will be available at the Visitor Center on weekends and during March Break.
Tundra swans are just one of the interesting things about Pinery. Do you want to see more?