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Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator or Olor buccinator)


Western North America. The largest and rarest of the swans, the American counterpart of the Whooper Swan.

Description: Adult is completely white, although head and neck will be stained from feeding in ferrous waters. The bill and facial skin are black, a narrow red line cutting in at the edge of the mandibles. The iris is dark brown. Legs and feet black. Juvenile: Overall greyish-brown, slightly darker on crown and hind-neck; under-parts paler grey. Adult plumage attained by second winter, birds being paler during first summer but with some greyish-brown on head, neck and wings.

Field Identification:

Length 150-180cm (60-72 in).

Sexes are similar but males can be larger.

In Flight: A very large, white swan with all-black bill. Lone individuals usually difficult to distinguish from Whistling swan in flight. The Trumpeter is larger, with longer neck and body and different voice.

Voice: A deeper call and more resonant than that of the Whistling swan, a single or double bugling ‘ko-hoh’, likened to that of a crane.

Habits: A solitary breeder, needing a large territory. Nests are situated close to the water, either on the shore or on small islands and even on muskrat houses and beaver lodges. Egg-laying commences in late April, a month later in Alaska.

Feeds chiefly while swimming, submerging head and neck below surface and up-ending in deeper water.

Habitat: Riverine wetlands, by lakes, ponds and marshes, even in open wooded regions and prairies and, in winter, on tidal estuaries.

Population: The Alaskan population averages larger. Formerly widespread across northern North American from Alaska to Central Canada. South to Idaho and Illinois.

Formerly abundant, but settlers in North America killed them in large numbers for food and feathers. Transportation of birds to other areas has resulted in a spectacular comeback. Totally protected throughout its range.

The Swan Sanctuary