The following are some facts about Trumpeter Swans that should help answer any questions you may have regarding this species.
The Trumpeter Swan gets its name from its trumpet-like call.
It is regarded as the largest of all native North American wildfowl. Male mute swans can actually get larger at times, but the mute swan is not native to North America.
- In a standing position, Trumpeter Swans are approximately 4 feet high. However, if the neck and legs are outstretched they can measure nearly 6 feet long from bill to feet.
- The wingspan (length from wing tip to wing tip) of the Trumpeter Swan varies between young and adults and between females and males. Wingspans in adults can vary from 6to 8 feet.
- Adult male swans can vary from 21-32 lbs., but more typically weigh 26-30 lbs.
- Adult female trumpeter swans weigh between 20-25 lbs, averaging about 21-22 lbs.
- Males (cobs) are typically larger than females (pens). Sexes can not be told apart, since both have identical white plumage with black bills and feet. Although cob and pen sizes can be told apart if they are side by side, there is still a fair degree of individual variation. Therefore, the only reliable way to sex individual swans is through blood tests or cloacal examination during the breeding season.
- Trumpeter Swan cygnets (young birds) are typically hatched gray in color. Cygnets steadily lose their gray plumage and molt in pure white feathers by the time they are one year old. Rarely, white cygnets are hatched. These cygnets are termed "leucistic" meaning white, and retain white plumage throughout their juvenile and adult years.
- Trumpeter Swans have been known to live 29 years in the wild, whereas a swan raised in captivity survived for 32 1/2 years. In the wild, however, typical survival age ranges from 15-25 years.
- Trumpeter Swans feed on submerged aquatic vegetation and on occasion aquatic invertebrates. Sometimes in the spring, they can be observed feeding on green grass. But this is very rare.
- They feed in slow shallow water and dip their heads below the surface of the water. In deep water, they can tip up balancing with their legs and tail out of the water much like geese do.
- Every year adult swans go through a flightless period in which they molt all their feathers at once thus making them flightless for a 1-2 month period of time. This typically occurs during the warmest months, namely July and August.
- A Trumpeter Swan nest commonly consists of a mass of emergent vegetation such as cattail or bulrush. It is large measuring 5 feet in diameter, 1-2 feet high, and weighing hundreds of pounds. Sometimes they will nest on a muskrat house or beaver lodge. The same nest may be used every year and take between 2 and 4 weeks to construct.
- Trumpeter Swans typically lay between 4-6 cream-colored eggs. The female does most of the incubating over a 33-37 day period after which point hatching occurs.
- Cygnets fledge (fly for the first time) in late September and early October. So it can take up to 110-120 days , to go from the time they are hatched to the time they fledge.
- Trumpeter swans can fly between 40-80 miles per hour. They are very susceptible to collisions with wires, especially when they migrate.
- The majority of migrant trumpeter swans that reside Yellowstone during the winter are from Canada (primarily Grande Prairie, Alberta).
- Weather plays an important role in cygnet and juvenile swan survival and in swan productivity in general. Mild weather conditions usually are good for swan production. Higher winter survival also occurs during milder winters.
- Nest flooding is the primary cause of nest failure. Egg predation by coyotes, ravens, and otters does occur.
- For the last five years, there have been 0-2 nest attempts per year, fledging 0-2 cygnets per year.For the last five years, there have been 0-2 nest attempts per year, fledging 0-2 cygnets per year.
Banko, W. 1960. The Trumpeter Swan, Univ of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 214pp
McEneaney, T. 1999 Yellowstone Bird Report.
McEneaney, T. 2000 Yellowstone Bird Report.
McEneaney, T. 1986-2001 Resource Field Notes