Trumpeter Swan

The trumpeter swan gets its name from its sonorous, vaguely French Horn sounding call. This sound is used to communicate with other swans and can carry for a great distance. The trumpeter swan is the largest of all swans. They are all white except for a black bill and feet that range from gray to black.

This is unusual since most white birds have darker wing tips. They have a very long neck with short legs and a short, duck-like bill. They fly with their neck stretched straight out in front of them. The trumpeter swan was almost extinct in 1930. Due to widespread conservation efforts, the trumpeter swan now has a population of several thousand birds and seems to be out of danger.

Trumpeter swans are well adapted to the cold temperatures in which they live and have a thick layer of down that enables them to tolerate relatively long periods of subzero temperatures. Trumpeter swans molt once a year and this leaves them flightless for about a month. However, the male swan loses its feathers after the female swan starts to get hers back. This enables one of the parents to be with the young swans at all times.

Food

The trumpeter swan is mostly vegetarian but will eat meat on occasion. This usually takes the form of insects, snails, small reptiles and fish, mollusks and occasionally crustaceans. Most of their diet consists of leaves and stems of aquatic plants, seeds, and grain tubers.

Habitat

The trumpeter swan is found in North America mainly in Western Canada and the Northwestern United States. They live on ponds and lakes, large rivers, and occasionally grain fields.

Predators

Coyotes, minks, river otters, and golden eagles often prey on young swans. Once a trumpeter swan reaches adulthood and can fly, they are very rarely preyed upon.

Social Structure

Trumpeter swans are usually found in small flocks. They tend to form pair bonds at 2 or 3 years of age and stay bonded for life. Trumpeter swans are largely sedentary and usually only migrate from breeding areas to fairly close winter habitats. However, trumpeter swans that live in colder regions, like Alaska, tend to migrate farther distances depending on the weather. Mated pairs of trumpeter swans will usually nest in the same place year after year. Consequently, these pairs tend to defend their lake from other swans.

Birth & Offspring

Trumpeter swans usually nest for the first time when they are 4 or 5 years old. They build a blocky, platform like nest, often on top of a beaver dam or small island. Young trumpeter swans develop quickly and are fully feathered after 9 or 10 weeks. However, they will not fly until anywhere from 13 to 17 weeks old.

Young swans stay with their parents through the first winter and then strike out on their own. Siblings will often stay together until their third year and it is unusual for swans to return to their parents in later years. They form very strong family bonds.

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