The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) is a species of Swan found in North America. The largest living bird native to North America, it is also the largest existing waterfowl species with a wingspan of 185 to 250 cm (6 ft 2 to 8 ft 2 in).
It is the American equivalent and close relative of the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) of Eurasia, and some authorities have also considered the same species.
Table of Contents
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Anseriformes
- Family: Anatidae
- Genus: Cygnus
- Species: C. buccinator
By 1933, less than 70 wild trumpets were known to exist, and extinction appeared inevitable before aerial surveys found a Pacific population of several thousand trumpets around Alaska’s Copper River.
Cautious reintroductions by conservation agencies and the Trumpeter Swan Society steadily restored the North American wild population to more than 46,000 birds by 2010.
Its black bill is useful in differentiating the trumpeter swan from the introduced mute Swan. The trumpeter swan is the largest current species of waterfowl and the heaviest and longest native bird in North America.
Adults typically measure 138–165 cm (4 ft 6 in–5 ft 5 in) in length, although large males can exceed 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) in total length. The weight of adult birds is usually between 7–13.6 kg (15–30 lb).
Average weights in males have been recorded to vary from 10.9 to 12.7 kg (24 to 28 lb) and from 9.4 to 10.3 kg (21 to 23 lb) in females, likely due to seasonal variation based on access to food and age variability.
It is one of the heaviest living birds or animals capable of flight and, in comparison with average weight, the heaviest flying bird in the world.
Alongside the mute Swan, the Dalmatian pelican, the kori bustard and the Andean condor it is one of the few to weigh more than 10 kg (22 lb) between the sexes.
One study of the wintering trumpets showed that the mean mass was second only to the condor. The wingspan of the trumpet swan ranged from 185 to 250 cm (6 ft 1 to 8 ft 2 in) with a wing chord measuring 60–68 cm (24–27 in).
The largest known male trumpet reached a length of 183 cm, a wingspan of 3.1 m (10 ft 2 in) and a weight of 38 lb.
It is the second heaviest wild waterfowl discovered, as a Mute Swan was found to weigh a massive 23 kg (51 lb), although it was not known if the latter Swan was still capable of flying because of its weight.
The plumage of the adult trumpet swan is completely white. Like mute Swan, the trumpet swans have light grey plumage and pinkish wings, and after about a year they have white plumage.
As with the Swan, this species has an upright stance and usually swims with a straight nose. The trumpet swan has a broad, wedge-shaped black bill that can, in some cases, be minimally lined with salmon-pink colouring around the mouth.
The bill, measured up to 10.5–12 cm (4.1–4.7 in), is up to twice the length of the Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis) bill and is the largest of any waterfowl. The legs are grey-pink, although some birds can look yellowish-grey to black. The tarsus is 10.5–12 cm (4.1–4.7 in).
The Mute Swan, which was introduced to North America, is scarcely smaller. It can be distinguished, however, by its orange bill and its different physical structure (especially the neck, which is usually kept curved rather than straight in the trumpet).
Mute Swan is sometimes found during the year in developed areas near human habitation in North America. On the other hand, trumpets are typically found only in pristine wetlands with minimal human disturbance, particularly during breeding.
The tundra swan (C. columbianus) resembles the trumpet more closely but is considerably smaller. The neck of a male trumpeter can be twice as long as the neck of a tundra swan.
Its yellow lores further differentiate the tundra swan. However, some trumpet swans have yellow lores, many of which appear to be leucistic and have paler legs than typical trumpets.
Distinguishing tundra and trumpet swans from a distance (when size is more difficult to gage) can be challenging without a direct comparison.
However, it is possible thanks to the long neck of the trumpet (the length of which is visible even when the Swan is not standing or swimming upright) and the larger, wedge-shaped bill compared to the tundra swan.
The Trumpeter Swans have similar calls to the Whooper Swans and the Bewick Swans. They are noisy and very musical beings, with their cry sounding like a trumpet, which gave the bird its name.
Their breeding habitat is large pristine wetlands, shallow ponds, undisturbed lakes, and big, slow rivers and marshes in the northwest and central North America, with the largest number of breeding pairs found in Alaska.
They prefer breeding sites with enough space for them to have enough surface water to fly off, as well as food, shallow, unpolluted water and little or no human disturbance.
Natural populations of these swans migrate from and to the Pacific coast and parts of the United States, moving in V-shaped flocks. The release populations are mainly non-migratory.
During the winter, they migrate to the southern tier of Canada, to the eastern part of the northwestern states of the United States, in particular to the Red Rock Lakes area of Montana, to the north of Puget Sound in the northwest of Washington State, and to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to the south.
Historically, they spread as far south as Texas and Southern California] There is also a specimen in the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shot by F. B.
Armstrong in 1909 in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Since 1992, trumpet swans have been found in Arkansas every November-February on Magness Lake outside Heber Springs.
Non-migratory trumpet swans have also been artificially introduced to some parts of Oregon, where they never existed. Due to their natural appearance, they are perfect waterfowl to attract bird watchers and other wildlife enthusiasts.
Introductions of non-indigenous species in western countries, such as the Oregon Trumpeter Swan Program (OTSP), have also been criticized, but typically, the perceived beauty of natural sites has precedence over the original range of any given species.
In winter, remains of crops may be eaten in agricultural fields, but more generally they feed while swimming. These birds eat as they swim, often up-and-down or dabbling in reaching the submerged food.
The diet is almost entirely of aquatic plants. Both the leaves and the stems of the submerged and emerging plants will be consumed. They can also dig into muddy substrates underwater to extract roots and tubers.
Grasses and grains can also be eaten in the fields in winter. They also eat in the night as well as in the daytime. Feeding behaviour, and the weight of birds, frequently increases in the spring as they prepare for the breeding season.
Young people initially include insects, small fish, fish eggs and small crustaceans in their diet, provide additional nutrition, and shift to a vegetation-based diet in the first few months.
Breeding and Reproduction
Like other swans, trumpet swans also mate for life, and both parents take part in raising their young, but mostly the female incubates the eggs.
Most Swan pair bonds when they are 5 to 7 years old, but some pairs do not form until they are almost 20 years old. “Divorces” have been known to exist between birds, in which case the mates would be serially monogamous, with the mates in separate breeding seasons.
Sometimes, if his mate dies, a male trumpeter swan may not be reunited for the rest of his life. Most egg-laying happens between late April and May.
The female lays 3–12 eggs, with an average of 4–6 eggs, in a mound of plant material on a small island, a beaver or a muskrat lodge, or a floating platform on a cluster of emergent vegetation.
The same location can be used for many years, and both members of the pair help to create a nest. The nest is a large, open bowl of grasses, sedges and various aquatic vegetation, varying in diameter about 1.2 to 3.6 m, the latter after repeated use.
The eggs are 73 millimetres (2.9 in) wide, 113.5 millimetres (4.5 in) long and weigh approximately 320 grams (320 grams) long. Young people can swim within two days and are usually able to feed themselves for at least two weeks.
The fledgeling stage is reached at approximately 3 to 4 months. When nesting, trumpet swans are territorial and attack other species, including conspecifics, who enter the area of their nest.
Adults go through the summer mould where they lose their flying feathers for a while. The females become inert shortly after the young hatch; the males go through this process about a month later when the females have finished their mould.