Bird of the Week, January 20, 2012
Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan by Alan Wilson


The majestic Trumpeter Swan has a wingspan of up to eight feet and can reach 35 pounds - it is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. This swan once bred widely across North America, but by the early 20th Century had experienced severe population declines due to habitat loss and market hunting for feathers and meat.


The Trumpeter is particularly sensitive to human disturbance and pollution, and does best in clean, quiet waters where there are abundant invertebrates and aquatic plants available for food.  It matures late, not nesting until 4-5 years of age, at which time birds form life-long pair bonds.


Threats to the Trumpeter Swan include lead poisoning and loss of wintering habitat.  Release of captive-bred swans has resulted in some non-migratory populations, which places a strain on habitat resources when resident birds are joined by flocks of overwintering swans in some areas. Overcrowding also creates the potential for outbreaks of avian disease, and can make birds vulnerable to a single catastrophic event, such as a bad storm.


The Trumpeter Swan has responded well to conservation measures that include a ban on lead for waterfowl hunting in 1991, and its population has increased to over 35,000 adults. Continuing conservation measures for the species should include protection and restoration of freshwater wetlands.



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Photo: Alan Wilson; Range Map, NatureServe