WatchList Species Account for Trumpeter Swan
(Cygnus buccinator)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: USFWS
Photo: USFWS

Reduced by 1935 to only 69 known individuals, this majestic swan's numbers have benefited from protection from shooting, habitat preservation, and restoration programs. By the early 2000s the population had increased to over 30,000 in the wild. It is long-lived and can reach 32 years in captivity.


The Trumpeter is a large swan, which can reach a weight of 35 pounds. It once bred widely in North America. At present the natural breeding range is locally from Alaska to Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Oregon, while due to introductions it breeds also in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. It breeds in freshwater marshes, ponds, lakes and rivers, particularly where there is a low level of human disturbance and where there are abundant invertebrate populations and aquatic plants.


In winter the bird favors streams, rivers and lakes but also estuarine habitats. Adults are predominantly herbivorous, while cygnets eat aquatic invertebrates. Predators on eggs and young include ravens, raccoons, wolverines, bears, coyotes, and wolves.


Threats to this species include loss of wintering habitat, use of relatively few sites by flocks of wintering birds, lead poisoning, and lack of migratory behavior in some of the wild and restored flocks. Other threats include shooting and lead poisoning; the swan is particularly susceptible to the latter. Conservation of the bird has been a notable success, as it responds well to conservation measures.