Photo by: Jerry Mercier
Species: Trumpeter Swan
Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator
Description: Trumpeter swans are large beautiful white birds, with a long neck, and black legs, feet and beak. The wing span of these birds can be as large as 3 meters and male swans are larger than females. The young, called cygnets, are distinguishable from adults by their grey colouring, yellow legs and feet and smaller size. Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl found in Ontario.
Habitat: Trumpeter swans are water birds. They are commonly found in lakes, ponds and freshwater marshes. In the warmer months, you will find these swans feeding wherever water is found including flooded fields, and creeks. When lakes and ponds freeze up during the winter months, these swans will congregate, sometimes in very large numbers, in any open water they can find.
Breeding: Trumpeter swans will form breeding pairs in the spring. These pair bonds are formed when these birds are three or four years old and they will remain together throughout the years and will mate for life. Nest sites are always near water, and are placed at higher elevations (e.g., beaver houses and dams). Nests are constructed using aquatic vegetation, grasses and other plant material, as well as down and body feathers. These nests are used for many years by the same mating pair. Females will lay on average 6-5 eggs, which she will incubate until they hatch, approximately 32 days after being laid. While the female is on the nest, the male is defending the nest from predators. Cygnets are fully feathered by 10 weeks and will remain with their parents through the fall months.
Diet: Trumpeter swans forage in shallow water for aquatic vegetation, eating leaves, tubers and roots. They feed by dipping their heads and necks under water, and will up-end themselves (bum in the air) to get to the deeper vegetation.
Threats to species: Trumpeter swans in North America were hunted to near extinction, where in 1993 only 77 trumpeter swans were breeding in Canada. Thanks to extensive re-introduction and conservation efforts, this species has rebounded and are now common throughout North America. This large bird has few natural predators. Large raptors, such as eagles and owls, coyotes and mink may prey on the young and sick adult swans. Swan deaths can also be attributed to disease/parasites, and harsh weather (causing a food shortage). Human influence is a main cause of death to these birds, including lead poisoning due to ingesting lead sinkers, collisions with man-made objects (e.g., cars, and power lines) and habitat loss.
Threat to humans: Many people fear these birds based on their size and attitude. These birds can get aggressive during breeding season, but are really no threat to humans.
Trumpeter swans produce a brassy trumpet-like honk.
These large birds live around 12 years in the wild, but can reach up to 35 years in captivity.
Trumpeter swans are able to survive in harsh environments due to their dense down layer, which can be as thick as 5 cm.
Hinterland Who’s Who- http://www.hww.ca/en/species/birds/trumpeter-swan.html
The Cornell lab of Ornithology- http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/trumpeter_swan/lifehistory