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Bird of the Week: Trumpeter Swan

Okanogan Country | 01/14/2019 | Wildlife Viewing

These massive birds weigh an average over 25 pounds, stretching up to 6 feet in length, making them North America's heaviest flying bird. They are almost twice as massive as a Tundra Swan. 

Over the years Trumpeter Swans have battled extinction due to hunters and feather collectors decimating the population. In the early 20th century swan feathers were often converted into writing quills, and women used swan skin as powder puffs. As recently as the mid-1900's these birds began to make their recovery, thanks to the help of aggressive conservation. 

Today, Trumpeter Swans along with Tundra Swans and Snow Geese are three white birds of particular interest to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) because their populations are growing and expanding to new locations within Washington state.

According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife.....

Adults Trumpeter Swan have: 

  • white plumage 
  • black legs 
  • black, angular bill
  • narrow red border on lower mandible
  • angular head
  • eyes that blends in with bill

Juvenile Swans (sometimes referred to as cygnets) have:

  • dark grey plumage
  • pinkish/mottled bills with black bases & tips
  • mottled yellow and black legs

Fun Facts provided by All About Birds - The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  • Trumpeter Swans often mate for life, moving together as they travel in migratory populations. They form a pair bond when they are 3/4 years old. Some switch mates during their lifetime, and others will lose their mate, never to mate again.
  • Trumpeter Swans take an unusual approach when it comes to incubation. They warm their eggs by covering them with their webbed feet.
  • The Trumpeters Swan's scientific name is Cygnus buccinator, which comes from the Latin Cygnus (swan) and buccinare (to trumpet). Humans have a buccinator muscle in our cheeks that we use to blow into trumpets, or blow out candles, etc. 

Have you seen this white bird of Winter?

If you spot a Trumpeter Swan on your next outing don't forget to report your observation to the WDFW!

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