Trumpeter Swans – Now a Regular Visitor
Aggressive conservation efforts have brought this majestic bird back from the brink of extinction. We have seen them for several years in a row now as they migrate to their winter homes.
I am fortunate to live on the lake I grew up on. There have been many changes during my time on the lake. More homes, more people, more traffic and more birds. All kinds of birds. Growing up we never saw bald eagles. Today we have a resident eagle which soars along the tree line by our house riding the wind looking for it’s next meal. But the real treat lately has been the return of the trumpeter swans.
Because their feathers were popular for quill pens and their skin was commonly used in lady’s powder puffs, this species was hunted to verge of extinction. By 1935 there were only 69 known trumpeter swans left. With aggressive conservation and hunting bans it is estimated that today there are nearly 35,000 of these majestic waterfowl.
For three or four years it has been the migration of a small group of trumpeter swans through our area that drew crowds to the local park to see these magnificent birds. They tend to be the last waterfowl to move through before the lake freezes. To see coots, mallards, Canadian Geese and trumpeter swans swimming in the last bit of open water is quit a sight. These guys dwarf the Canadian Geese.
This spring was a first as I saw two trumpeter swans on the lake. I have never seen them in the spring so I texted my son Chris to see if he wanted to take some pictures with our 600mm lens. Too late, he was already at the park taking pictures along with several other people. This pair hung around for a couple hours and then moved on. Really fun to see them in the spring when it is warmer out.
Breeding Trumpeter Swans seek relatively shallow (less than 6 feet deep), undisturbed bodies of freshwater with abundant aquatic plants. These heavy-bodied birds also need at least 100 yards of open water for their running take-offs. They also prefer muskrat or beaver dens or small islands on which to nest. Breeding sites include small ponds lakes, marshes, bogs, glacial potholes, and quiet stretches of river.
As they get ready for migration, Trumpeter Swans gather near open water, such as near inlets with moving water, and larger, deeper lakes. Wintering birds seek out ice-free sites where vegetation is available. streams, rivers, springs and reservoirs are favorite wintering areas. In the Midwest, swans may winter on deep ponds of reclaimed surface mines. Wintering swans may forage in croplands and pasture.
Trumpeter Swans are mainly vegetarians. Round the clock these birds feed on a broad range of aquatic plants. Some of their favorites include pond weed, sedges, rushes, duckweed, wild rice and algae. Younger birds also eat aquatic insects. Occasionally trumpeter swans will eat small fish and fish egg.
We had hoped to get some pictures of them flying but they were pretty happy paddling around in the shallows nibbling on the weeds.
What a fun couple of hours watching these majestic birds!
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