Habitat selection by the Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) was evaluated on the Colville River Delta prior to oil field development (1982-1989). Tundra Swan territories comprised a lake, used for refuge and foraging, and terrestrial habitats and ponds near the lake’s perimeter used for foraging and nesting. Tundra swan sightings from early and late summer aerial surveys were used to investigate habitat selection at the territory and within-territory scale. At the territory or lake scale, swan sightings/lake increased with lake size, and increased from discrete to tapped (i.e., connected to a river channel) to drained lakes within size categories. Overall, 49% of the variation in swan sightings/lake was explained by lake size and type, a size-x-type interaction term, and the proportion of lake perimeter comprised of Halophytic Ponds and Halophytic Wet Meadows. At the within-territory or within-lake scale, foraging swans significantly selected Halophytic Ponds, Halophytic Wet Meadows, and Fresh Ponds relative to Uplands; nesting swans significantly selected Halophytic Ponds and significantly avoided Fresh Wet Meadows relative to Uplands. Vegetation sampling indicated that sites used by Tundra Swans on river channels and tapped lakes were significantly more likely to have Sheathed Pondweed (Potamogeton vaginatus) than control sites. The three major components of Tundra Swan diet were Carex sedges, Sheathed Pondweed, and algae, together comprising 85% of identifiable plant fragments in feces.
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Vol. 27 • No. 2