Being North Americas heaviest waterfowl, the Trumpeter Swan is a sight to behold. This species has made an incredible comeback after numbers were severely reduced by hunting in the 1600-1800's...by the mid 1930's, fewer than 100 were known to exist. Active reintroduction efforts were made in the upper Midwest and Ontario to re-establish the species to its former breeding range. The Trumpeter Swan's far reaching call is usually the best way to identify it. WIth spring migration now under-way, now is a good time to get outdoors and start learning more about our wonderful but temporary visitors as they stop in to rest while they prepare for their next leg of their migratory journey. Eventually they will end up in Alaska and Northern Canada where they will breed and raise another generation.
- Trumpeter Swans are impressively large—males average over 26 pounds, making them North America’s heaviest flying bird. To get that much mass aloft the swans need at least a 100 meter-long “runway” of open water: running hard across the surface, they almost sound like galloping horses as they generate speed for take off.
- Starting in the 1600s, market hunters and feather collectors had decimated Trumpeter Swans populations by the late 1800s. Swan feathers adorned fashionable hats, women used swan skins as powder puffs, and the birds’ long flight feathers were coveted for writing quills. Aggressive conservation helped the species recover by the early 2000s.
- Overhunting of muskrats and beavers may have harmed Trumpeter Swans, too: the swans nest on their dens and dams. As the rodents’ populations recovered, breeding habitat for the swans also improved.
- Trumpeter Swans form pair bonds when they are three or four years old. The pair stays together throughout the year, moving together in migratory populations. Trumpeters are assumed to mate for life, but some individuals do switch mates over their lifetimes. Some males that lost their mates did not mate again.
- Trumpeter Swans take an unusual approach to incubation: they warm the eggs by covering them with their webbed feet.
- The Trumpeter Swan’s scientific name, Cygnus buccinator, is from the LatinCygnus (swan) and buccinare (to trumpet). We humans have a buccinator muscle in our cheeks—we use it to blow out candles and to blow into trumpets and other instruments.
Now is the time to see the Trumpeter Swans in our area. This photo was taken early morning on March 12th, 2016 near the mouth of Fish Creek.