The Detroit Post
Wednesday, 20 October, 2021

Are Trumpeter Swans Endangered

Earl Hamilton
• Tuesday, 10 November, 2020
• 7 min read

Despite their size, this once- endangered, now recovering species is as elegant as any swan, with a graceful neck and snowy-white plumage. They breed on wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern U.S., and winter on ice-free coastal and inland waters.

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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.

Trumpeter Swans take an unusual approach to incubation: they warm the eggs by covering them with their webbed feet. Although awkward on the ground due to short legs set behind their center of gravity, they can walk more than a mile at a time, even when traveling with cygnets less than a week old.

The oldest known Trumpeter Swan was a female, and at least 26 years, 2 months old when she was identified by her bank in the wild, in Wisconsin. Seeing and reporting a swan with a neck collar or leg band is very helpful and strongly encouraged.

Report your swan(s) to the Bird Banding Lab and to our Trumpeter Watch program. Trumpeter Swans eat the roots and tubers and other aquatic plants they find in shallow waters and those natural food sources are their best nutrition.

Feeding swans “human food” or food that is rich in protein and calories can also contribute to “angel wing”, a deformity of the wings which permanently prevents swans from flying. In the 1930s, only 69 trumpeters were known to be alive in the United States and those were all in Yellowstone and the Centennial Valley of Montana.

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That discovery led to the establishment of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Those birds were sheltered from trapping and hunting due to the remoteness and harshness of the region.

Swans were able to survive through the cold in these regions thanks to ice-free areas created by hot springs and geysers. In the late 1930s, biologists began moving some of those trumpeters to other western refuges.

Unknown to the U.S. biologists at that time, there was another area, Grand Prairie in Alberta, Canada, where a small flock of trumpeters also survived. While male Trumpeters (21-38 pounds) are generally larger, weigh more than female Trumpeters (20-25 pounds), visually distinguishing the sexes is not possible without internal examination of the vent area.

It is only the female that incubates the eggs while the male will swim close by to protect the nest from predators. In mating, the male mounts the female and grasps her neck with his bill.

Nesting Trumpeters require shallow wetlands with abundant food, good nesting islands, minimal human disturbance, ice free water from at least late April to October, and lack of contaminants. The nest is often in a secluded area and being surrounded by water is preferred to be alert to predators.

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It is only the female that incubates the eggs while the male will swim close by to protect the nest from predators. The Trumpeter Swan is a wonderful high profile ambassador for the importance of wetland conservation.

When we protect and improve their habitat, many less conspicuous species, whose existence also depends on conservation of high quality wetlands, also benefit. Eggs are typically laid in April/early May, with hatching sometime between May to mid-to late June, depending on the geographic location and warming weather.

The Pen does not begin incubating until her clutch is complete so that all cygnets will hatch within 24 hours of each other. Only one clutch of eggs is laid per year, although if a nest is destroyed, the pair may try to breed again, usually not successfully.

The swans build their nests out of stems and leaves from plants such as cattails and edges. Trumpeter Swan cygnets learn to fly (fledged) when they are about 3 to 4 months old.

Power line collisions are a major source of death during the first few months of flight. By the time spring arrives, the young swans, now almost a year old are much more adept at flight and avoiding power lines.

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Adult swans eat aquatic vegetation, including the leaves, seeds, and roots of many types of pond weeds. You may see a swan parent rock back and forth as its feet dislodge plants in the sediment which rise to the surface.

Young cygnets also eat invertebrates, a source of protein for early growth. Some plants swans are known to eat, according to Winston Bank, include pond weed (Potamogeton), water milfoil (Myriophyllum), musk grass (Chart), water weed (Elodea condenses), duckweed (Lemma Priscilla), spatter docks (Nymphet polysepala), bur- reeds (Paganism augustifolium), Zapata (Sagittarius cantata), Care strata and arrowhead.

Wild swans are also adapting to field feeding, eating left over grains and vegetables following harvest by farmers. During the first few months when cygnets are small, the main predators are mink, coyotes, bald eagles, great horned owls, and snapping turtles.

Larger cygnets and swans may be attacked and killed by coyotes, otters, bobcats, eagles, unrestrained dogs, and humans (poaching). A well-known male Trumpeter Swan at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Washington lived more than 35 years (read the story of “Solo” by clicking on the blue text).

If you see a swan that appears to be sick, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitation center for their recommendations. However, this aggressive behavior is usually only exhibited during the nesting season March through October.

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Captive swans need open water year round and will need to be fed during the winter months which could attract waterfowl. Early in the season, a trained dog may be more effective to chase geese off the lawn.

However, once the geese begin nesting, they are protected under Federal Migratory Bird law and may not be harassed. In order to discourage geese (and promote healthier wetlands), it is best to keep a good natural buffer around the pond, allow grass to grow long, and plant shrubs.

The trumpeter swan's historic breeding range extended in a wideband from the Bering Sea east through almost all of Canada and south to Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Other trumpeters are found in mixed migratory/non- migratory groups across the Great Basin region of Alberta, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

State fish and wildlife agencies are currently undertaking recovery efforts to reestablish populations in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The trumpeter swan is a majestic bird, with snowy white feathers; jet-black bill, feet, and legs; and 8-foot wingspan.

The tundra swan weighs approximately 15 pounds, has a high whistling call, and migrates long distances between summer and winter ranges. Sometime between late March and early May, they build their nests, choosing locations close to the water, either on shore, small islands, or muskrat and beaver lodges.

The nest mound, which takes about 2 weeks to build, reaches a diameter of 6 to 12 feet and an average height of 18 inches. The pen spends an average of 35 days incubating the eggs while the cob stays nearby to defend the nest against intruders or predators.

When they hatch, the downy young (called cygnets) are grayish with pink bills and weigh about 1/2 pound each. Trumpeter swans use their strong webbed feet to dig into the pond or lake bottom for roots, shoots, and tubers, then plunge their heads and necks underwater to eat what they've dug up.

In deeper water, they tip up completely to snap off the leaves and stems of plants growing underwater. Their heads and necks are often stained a rusty color from feeding in ferrous (containing iron) waters.

By 8 to 10 weeks of age, young trumpeters have reached half their adult size and are fully feathered. The trumpeter swan is vulnerable to illegal shooting, collisions with power lines, and predators such as snapping turtles, great horned owls, raccoons, and minks which steal the eggs and attack the young.

Red Rock Lakes is located in Montana's Centennial Valley and is part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The area's system of hot springs provides year-round open waters where trumpeters, as well as other wildlife, find food and cover even in the coldest weather.

Over the years, the Red Rock Lakes refuge flock served as an important source of breeding birds for reintroduction efforts in other parts of the country, primarily on other national wildlife refuges in the Midwest. In the early 1950s, a fairly large, previously unknown population of trumpeter swans was discovered in Alaska.

Today, estimates show about 16,000 trumpeter swans reside in North America, including some 13,000 in Alaska, which winter on the Pacific Coast; more than 1,600 in Canada; about 500 in the Midwest; and more than 500 in the prostate area of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana (including the Red Rock Lakes refuge flock). The scientific name for the trumpeter swan is Cygnus succincter and can be found in North America mostly in Canada and the north region of the United States.

Around the 1930s the trumpeter swan population was dangerously low and measures were taken to rehabilitate the species in an area known as Red Rock... Chapter 24/ Lesson 5 Related to this Question ×What best describes you? Choose oneStudentTeacherParentTutor.

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