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Tundra Swans Migration Through Michigan’s Thumb

Tundra Swan

An Annual Sighting Many Look Forward To

Over the years we have received several reports from our readers noting the annual migration of Tundra swans across the Thumb. One reader noted. “Tuesday night around 8pm there were hundreds, possibly even a thousand or more, migrating Tundra Swans in the field on the southeast corner of Champagne and Kinde, flying northwesterly towards Rush Lake in groups of a dozen or so, not more than a couple hundred feet off the ground.”

The tundra swan passes through the Thumb region on their migration routes. Shortly after ice thaws, hundreds to sometimes thousands of tundra swans can be seen resting in Great Lakes marshes. The Saginaw Bay area is considered one of the best sites to see a tundra swan migration stop, a migration that takes them approximately 4,200 miles.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

According to CBC News in Canada concerns over wind turbines in the migration path are making headlines in Canada. A waterfowl specialist says wind turbines could spell danger for Tundra swans and the economy in Lambton County Ontario.

Turbines May Affect Migration Patterns

Dr. Scott Petrie said building industrial wind farms in Grand Bend, Ont., will scare the birds from their annual migration stop. He said the province isn’t considering how the 250 turbines proposed for the area will affect wildlife.

Tundra Swan Migration

“By putting the turbines in inappropriate places, it actually is tantamount to habitat loss. You wouldn’t put an office tower next to a coastal wetland, why would you put a wind turbine there?” he said.

Petrie said turbines could also hurt Grand Bend economically. If the Tundra swans avoid the area, so will birdwatchers, he said. Every March birders come out to see the approximately 10,000 swans as they migrate north.


Tundra Swan
Image by Marcel Langthim from Pixabay

Zephyr Wind Development plans on over 250 wind turbines to be placed near Grand Bend Ontario. Grand Bend is almost directly across Lake Huron from Huron County and shares the same migration route.

Tundra Swans are Truly Snowbirds

Tundra swans spend their summer on the northern coast of Alaska and Canada. Some stop on the shorelines of Hudson’s Bay and on the most northern islands of Canada. As summer wanes they migrate for the winter on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and even in certain inland areas of some western states. The Western tundra swans cross the Great Lakes States and stop for the winter season in Chesapeake Bay. During their migratory flight the swans stop as they pass over Michigan.

Anyone with digital pictures of a Tundra swan stop sighting in the Thumb is invited to send them to thumbwind@gmail.com. We will update this post with your shots.


Related Reading


Michigan Tundra Swan Migration

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Mike Hardy

Mike Hardy is a Marketing Information Technology Manager and author of a fun-loving blog covering topics of the Upper Thumb of Michigan. Starting in 2009, he authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 15,000 visitors per month. Mike welcomes your feedback, which can be found on Thumbwinds, "About" page.

2 Responses

  1. Our first wind farm analysis suggested that turbines be place no closer than 1/4 to 4.5 miles from the actual shoreline along Saginaw Bay in Michigan. Turbines placed at 4.5 miles or further from the bay have caused no swan mortality to date to our knowledge. Considering that we predicted 1 to 2 mortaities per year at this distance (having determined that to an estimate on the high side–e.g. no more than that number of swans) we are somewhat pleased. Turbines closer to the Bay near Pigeon Michigan have not been in place long enough to get a good statistical sample, However, we welcome the data. Similarly, in our surveys, both with restidents, wildlife experts, and our own surveys, we rarely found swans inland more than a mile from the shoreline, suggesting that there is little habitat impact. Place with some care, we do not anticipate population level impacts from wind turbines near Saginaw Bay. Caitlin Coberly, Principal Ecologist, Merlin Ecological.

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