Tundra Swans and Waterfowl
Tundra Swans have become a symbol of the need for restoration in the Coeur d’Alene Basin. Tundra Swans, along with other waterfowl, are an important part of the ecology and beauty in our area. Wetlands in the lower Coeur d’Alene Basin are important nationally, as they provide habitat for many species of waterfowl as they stop here during their migration to nesting grounds farther north. Many of these birds also nest in wetlands along the Coeur d’Alene River, allowing us to see and hear the abundance of life in our wetlands for much of the year.
Mine waste contamination has proven to have an ill effect on waterfowl. Contamination finds its way into the vegetation and sediments in the wetlands and ultimately into the birds. This is especially true for Tundra Swans since they burrow their heads into the sediment to find food (which is why they are often pictured with soiled heads and necks). Lead contamination causes their digestive systems to stop functioning and they ultimately starve.
In the Coeur d’Alene Basin, hundreds of Tundra Swans are found dead or sick each year as a result of lead poisoning. Other birds, such as Canada Geese and mallards, have also been injured by lead in the sediments.
One project example: In 2007 the Trustees approved a project to transform a plot of farmland into contaminant-free wetland in an effort to provide a safe feeding ground for waterfowl. This project has been completed and as of 2013, this wetland is being used by a diversity of waterfowl.
If you would like to share your views regarding restoration and how it relates to Tundra Swans, or would like to propose a restoration project regarding Tundra Swans, please click here.