Once again the frigid cold fronts that swept through the last week brought pay dirt to our area in the form of waterfowl. The eastern population of the Tundra Swan – formally known as the whistling swan – is roughly 100,000. Of this total population it is estimated that a full 75% of these birds winter right here in eastern North Carolina. The vast majority of these birds, the largest of all the swans in North America, can be found at Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge each winter. The refuge this time of year is a sight to behold for sure.
Looking out across the water of North Carolina’s largest natural lake, it would seem as though you could simply walk across Mattamuskeet on the backs of so many thousands of swans. The congregation of these birds is almost overwhelming as this place probably holds the largest concentration of these birds in America. This is a wintertime phenomenon however, as up on the tundra during the breeding season these birds are spread out in pairs across thousands of miles of barren grounds. These sort of mass congregations occur only on the wintering grounds and ornithologists believe that the purpose of these massive gathering areas is for better mate selection. Once again, migration is about food and sex. And when it comes to a providing enough food in a natural habitat for some 40,000 swans to gather in order to find a mate, this lake is just as good as it gets. At 18 miles long and 7 miles wide with an average depth of only around 2 feet deep, this place is a full on Golden Corral buffet for waterfowl in the wintertime.