Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman
The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the heaviest bird native to North America and is, on average, the largest extant waterfowl species on earth. It is the North American counterpart and a close relative of the Whooper Swan of Eurasia, and even has been considered the same species by some authorities.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Trumpeter Swan was hunted heavily, both as game and a source of feathers. This species is also unusually sensitive to lead poisoning while young. These birds once bred in North America from northwestern Indiana west to Oregon in the U.S., and in Canada from James Bay to the Yukon, and they migrated as far south as Texas and southern California. The trumpeter was rare or extinct in most of the United States by the early twentieth century. Many thousands survived in the core range in Canada and Alaska, however, where populations have since rebounded.
Early efforts to reintroduce this bird into other parts of its original range, and to introduce it elsewhere, have had only modest success, as suitable habitats have dwindled and the released birds do not undertake migrations. More recently, the population in all three major population regions have shown sustained growth over the past thirty-year period. Data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service show 400% growth in that period, with signs of increasing growth rates over time.
One impediment to the growth of the Trumpeter Swan population around the Great Lakes is the presence of a growing non-migratory Mute Swan population who compete for habitat.
The Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group started a conservation project in 1982, using eggs collected in the wild. Live birds have also been taken from the wild. Since then, 584 birds have been released in Ontario. Despite lead poisoning in the wild from shotgun pellets, the prospects for restoration are considered good.
The Trumpeter Swan is listed as threatened in the state of Minnesota.
Nowadays, this species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2009).
Above: adult trumpeter swan
Above: adult trumpeter swan, close-up
Above: juvenile trumpeter swan
Above: a pair of trumpeter swans, female breeding (male left).
Above: Trumpeter swan and its cygnets
Above: adult Trumpeter swan