Trumpeter Swan

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Trumpeter Swan
Conservation status: Secure
Missing image
Trumpeter Swan

Scientific classification
Species:C. buccinator
Binomial name
Cygnus buccinator
Richardson, 1832

The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the largest native North American swan. Only the introduced Mute Swan may be larger. The Trumpeter Swan is closely related to the Whooper Swan of Eurasia.

These birds have white plumage with a long neck, a short black bill which extends back to the eyes and short black legs. Their wing span can be 3 m. The cygnets are grey in appearance, becoming white after the first year.

Their breeding habitat is large shallow ponds and wide slow rivers in northwestern North America, with the largest numbers being found in Alaska. The female lays 3 to 9 eggs in a mound of plant material on a small island, a beaver or muskrat lodge or a floating platform. The same location may be used for several years. These birds often mate for life. The young are able to swim soon after hatching, but are not ready for flight for 3 to 4 months.

In the southern parts of their range, these birds may be permanent residents. Northern birds migrate to the Pacific coast and midwestern United States, flying south in V-shaped flocks.

These birds feed mainly on aquatic plants while swimming, sometimes tipping forward and extending the neck to reach submerged vegetation. In winter, they may also eat grasses and grains in fields. The young are fed insects and small crustaceans at first, changing to a plant diet over the first few months.

Adults go through a summer moult and they temporarily lose their flight feathers. The females become flightless shortly after the young hatch; the males go through this process about a month later when the females have completed their moult.

This bird was named for its trumpet-like honk which some compare to the sound of a French horn.

Trumpeter Swans were originally found across most of North America but were hunted almost to extinction by the beginning of the 20th century. Besides using its eggs and meat for food, hunters in the 1800s sold the feathers for use as quill pens and the skins to make pillows and matresses. Populations have since rebounded and efforts to reintroduce this bird into other parts of its original range, including the Great Lakes region, continue.

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