While enjoying an afternoon snowshoe along the Snake River on New Year’s Day, I had the great fortune to finally snap a few photos of these stunning swans. Trumpeter Swans, Cygnus buccinator, are the biggest waterfowl native to North America. They can weigh up to 30 pounds, making it even more remarkable to witness them fly. Since I moved to Grand Teton National Park in August, I have been seeing them on any open body of water in the area. Growing up in Maine where no swans exist as far as I know, I only ever saw swans when my family went down to Connecticut to take the ferry from New London to Long Island so they are still a gorgeous novelty to see in the wild! Of course, the swans in Connecticut are a different species of swan native to Eurasia, called Mute Swans, Cygnus olor, and tend to be quite aggressive.

Range and Conservation Status: Trumpeter Swans are native to northern North America, mostly in the west. Check out their range map and typical voice at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/trumpeter_swan/id.  Throughout the 17th to 19th centuries, Trumpeter Swans were hunted extensively for their skins and feathers for use in hats and as quill pens. They were nearly extinct by the early 1900’s, which is when various conservation programs began to protect these swans. Today their conservation status is considered of “least concern” since their populations have made an impressive comeback and they are quite common within their range.

Natural History Nuggets: Male trumpeter swans are called cobs, whereas females are called pens… I wonder where that name came from…. though you cannot tell the difference between males and females with the naked eye. Young swans are called cygnettes. They eat aquatic vegetation and live in freshwater habitats. They usually live 15-25 years in the wild. They molt all their feathers at once during the summer, leaving them flightless for 1-2 months. If I were a coyote, I would take note of that fact…

 

References:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/trumpeter_swan/lifehistory

http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/trumpeterswan.htm

 

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