Trumpeter swan

The largest species of Waterfowl present in America

Jakub Fryš

A majestic bird holding the title of the largest extant species of waterfowl native to North America. Its impressive wingspan and snow-white plumage make it a sight to behold as it glides across the waters of lakes, ponds, and rivers. The trumpeter swan symbolizes wilderness and has been a subject of conservation success stories.

Historically, trumpeter swans nested across much of North America, from Alaska and western Canada through the Rocky Mountains down to the northern states of the United States. Breeding habitats are characterized by large bodies of water with abundant vegetation, providing these birds with food and the necessary seclusion for nesting. They are highly dependent on aquatic environments not only for feeding on plant matter and small aquatic animals but also for their elaborate courtship displays and mating rituals, which often take place on water.

The trumpeter swan’s name is derived from its resonant, trumpet-like call, which can be heard over long distances and is one of the most distinctive sounds of North American wetlands. It is an integral part of the mating ritual and serves as a means of communication between mates and their cygnets.

The 20th century was a dark period for the trumpeter swan due to overhunting and the millinery trade, which sought their feathers for the fashion industry. By the early 1900s, hunting pressures and habitat loss had driven the species to near extinction in most of its range. It was a wake-up call for conservationists and the public, sparking efforts to protect and restore the species.

Trumpeter swans are now commonly found in a variety of wetland habitats, ranging from freshwater to brackish environments. They can be observed foraging on land occasionally, but they show a strong preference for being in or near water. Their diets consist mainly of aquatic vegetation, which they access by dipping their long necks underwater. In winter, they may also feed on agricultural grains in fields.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Canada
2020
Mexico
0
Official estimate
EX
2020
Extinct locally
United States
2020
Alaska, Northern USA

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No