Trumpeter Swan

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Common Name: Trumpeter Swan
Scientific Name: Cygnus buccinator

Size: 54-65 inches (138-165 cm); Wingspan: 73-98 inches (185-250 cm)

Habitat: North America; northwestern and central North America, with the largest numbers of breeding pairs found in Alaska. Flying in V-shaped flocks, natural populations of these swans migrate to and from the Pacific coast and portions of the United States. In the winter, they migrate to the southern tier of Canada and in the United States to the eastern part of the northwest states, especially to the Red Rock Lakes area of Montana and the north Puget Sound region of northwest Washington State. However, released populations are mostly non-migratory.

Trumpeters breed in freshwater marshes and along ponds and lakes and winter in lakes, streams, springs, rivers, and reservoirs.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: Unknown amount of Adult individuals. The overall population trend is increasing. It was hunted for its feathers and skins throughout the 1600s - 1800s, causing a tremendous decline in its numbers. Its largest flight feathers made what were considered to be the best quality quill pens. By the early 20th century it was reduced to near extinction.

Diet: Submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation as well as grasses and grains. They often “tip up” to reach submerged aquatic vegetation and “dabble” on the water surface.

Trumpeter Swans tend to keep their necks straight (not curved) and upright when standing or in the water.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. The adult Trumpeter Swan is all white in plumage. The Trumpeter Swan has a large, wedge-shaped black bill that can, in some cases, be minimally lined with salmon-pink coloration around the mouth. The bill, measuring 10.5–12 cm (4.1–4.7 in) is the largest of any waterfowl. The legs are gray-pink in color, though in some birds they can appear yellowish gray to even black. The cygnets (juveniles) are grey in appearance, becoming white after the first year. This species can be confused with the Tundra Swan. Key distinctions include the Trumpeter Swan being significantly larger, having a longer neck and not having the yellow lores on the bill (around the mouth area).

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.

Nests are large open bowls, made of aquatic vegetation, grasses, and sedges, lined with down and some body feathers. They are usually placed on slightly elevated sites surrounded by water, such as a muskrat mound, beaver lodge, or small island. One to nine creamy white eggs are laid. Young Trumpeter Swans may have as little as 40% chance of survival, due variously to disturbance and destruction by humans, predation, nest flooding and starvation. Predators of Trumpeter Swan eggs include Common Raven (Corvus corax), Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), Wolverine (Gulo gulo), American Black Bear (Ursus americanus), Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), Coyote (Canis latrans), Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis).

Cool Facts: The Trumpeter Swan is the largest extant species of waterfowl and gets its’ name from its trumpet-like call.

Wild Trumpeter Swans have been known to live longer than 24 years, and one captive individual lived to be 32.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume 3: Swans of the World

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