Trumpeter Swan


Cygnus Buccinator


A large water bird with white feathers, black bill, feet and legs, and 8 ft. wingspan. The trumpeter lives primarily in riverine wetlands, lakes, ponds, marshes, open wooded areas, and, in some cases, prairies.

Trumpeters have a distinct headline.



The trumpeter swan establishes mating pairs when approximately three years old and mates for life. The pairs work together to build a nest in close proximity to water. The female swan then lays 3-9 eggs, which she incubates for an average of 35 days. During incubation, the male stays nearby in order to protect the nest. Newly hatched swan young (called cygnets) are about of a pound each, and are able to swim immediately. They feed on aquatic insects and crustaceans until they are about five weeks old, at which time they eat more vegetation. Cygnets are a grayish color until their second year when they become white, like their parents. 

Grooming helps with boyancy

Conservation Efforts:

Early in the 20th Century, the trumpeter swan was hunted almost to extinction for its skin, feathers, meat, and eggs. The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 was passed in order to protect these and other endangered birds from illegal hunting. In 1932, fewer than 70 trumpeter swans were known to exist worldwide. These swans were located near Yellowstone National Park in the area later known as the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (created in 1935 to protect the swan population).

A grand display.

By the 1950s, another large group of trumpeters was located in Alaska. Recent estimates are that about 16,000 trumpeters reside in North America, about 500 of these live in the Greater Yellowstone Region.

Where Found:

The trumpeter swan population once extended from the Bering Sea of Alaska, throughout Canada, and into Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Today, the bird’s breeding range includes Alaska, western Canada, and most of the western United States north of California. In the Greater Yellowstone Region, the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana’s Centennial Valley is home to a large number of trumpeters.

A peaceful morning on the water.

Fun Facts:

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the last remaining breeding and wintering grounds to the once nearly extinct trumpeter swan, the largest waterfowl speciesof the North America. In Autumn (September-October), the cygnets are approximately four months old, beginning to trumpet, and taking their first flying lessons. As Winter nears, the families of trumpeters stay close together and prepare for a sociable Winter together with other northern migratory birds.The Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge is an important wintering ground for the swans because of their need for open waterways throughout the bitter cold Yellowstone Winters and available Winter food. Continue to the next page, White-tailed Deer.

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