Photo credit: Parks Canada
You may have noticed big white birds in lakes and ponds recently who aren’t normally there. These birds are trumpeter swans.
Trumpeter swans breed in the summer time and spend their summers in northern Alberta, northern British Columbia, Yukon and Northwest Territories among other smaller summer populations. It is believed that most breeding pairs of trumpeter swans breed for life. Both parents work together for two to four weeks to build a nest that can reach up to 3.4 meters in width and 2.7 meters in height!
Trumpeter swans will have one brood per season with four to six offspring. Offspring only stay in their nests for one day and are able to swim and eat upon leaving. They can fly in 90 to 122 days.
When the season begins to change and weather becomes cooler, these swans begin to migrate to their winter range which is located on the northern Pacific coast. While migrating, they stop at bodies of water along the way to take breaks and eat, which is why we have been able to see them more frequently near the Calgary area recently.
Here are some more interesting facts you might not have known about trumpeter swans:
- A baby swan is called a “cygnet”, an adult male is called a “cob”, and an adult female is called a “pen”.
- They are very sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon nests and cygnets if they are disturbed.
- They are adapted to live on or near bodies of water, and feed mainly on aquatic vegetation.
- They are the heaviest flying bird in North America. Males can weigh up to 11.8 kilograms (heavier than a Canada goose which can weigh up to 8.6 kilograms, and slightly heavier than a wild turkey which can weigh up to 10.9 kilograms!).
- Trumpeter swans are called trumpeter swans because their calls sound like trumpets.
- Similar species include tundra swans and mute swans, which are both smaller and lack the completely black bills that trumpeter swans have (tundra swans have a yellow spot at the base of the bill, and mute swans have an orange bill).
- These birds were nearly hunted to extinction—there were only 69 known individuals by 1935. Today, hunting of these birds is illegal. Intense conservation efforts have helped protect this species and more than 34,000 individuals were recorded in 2005.
By Tayler Hamilton, AIWC volunteer
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. Trumpeter swan. Available at: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Trumpeter_Swan/lifehistory
20 thoughts on “Trumpeter Swans”
Just located a large flock of trumpeter swans, several hundred at least, resting in a field 8 miles north of Spruceview, Alberta April 12, 2019. They look to be all in excellent condition as they are migrating farther north for the summer.
Just saw a flock north of Viking Alberta. They are such beautiful birds!
That’s awesome, they are such beautiful birds! 🙂
Saw a beautiful flock of dozens flying over St. Albert on Apr. 22/19
They are definitely on the move, such beautiful birds!
Oct 20/19 there was a huge gathering of Canada Geese on Cold Lake, West Stettler, and the most swans amongst them that ive ever seen. In the 30 min we walked by lake 2 huge take offs of Canada geese happened which was terrific. But then nearly all that was left was the swans which was very neat. We wondered how long they might stay? Overnight or more or less??
Correct! They probably won’t stay for long, a night at most perhaps. A lot of waterfowl migrate during the night as well.
Oct 20/19 there was a huge gathering of Canada Geese on Cold Lake, West Stettler, and the most trumpter swans amongst them that ive ever seen. In the 30 min we walked by lake 2 huge take offs of Canada geese happened which was terrific. But then nearly all that was left was the swans which was very neat. We wondered how long they might stay? Overnight or more or less??
I saw a lone trumpeter swan land in a wetland just west of Calgary. Right on the city limits. It must have been separated from it’s migration companions during the severe winds over the past two days. Hope it will still find it’s way to the wintering grounds.
I just saw 10 trumpeter swans flying above my house east of Calgary! Beautiful!
Very cool! That is awesome, thank you for sharing 🙂
An amazing morning for bird watching. Spotted dozens of white swans flying in formation over the community of Lakeview in Calgary, likely heading toward Glenmore reservoir. Also spotted hundreds of Alberta Cedar Waxwings stopping to feed in neighbouring trees.
Very cool! Thank you for sharing 🙂
I live in Balzac and yesterday there were several white swans, and some darker ones as well. More like a light greyish, and many babies!!! The babes looked black. I got some good pics but it was such a grey sky. Wish the sun had been out as it would have been even prettier. We don’t see them here on the pond often so it was an awesome treat for sure.
Today I counted about 16 – 17 swans on the Bow river in SE Calgary, just off 130 Ave SE. I’m pretty sure they were Trumpeters as they were the same size as the Canada Geese who they were hanging out with. Also, I heard some trumpeting on the water before I actually saw them. There was also a pelican hanging out with the group.
Spotted a Trumpeter Swan yesterday around fifty feet above the high level bridge in Edmonton flying west down the river.
How fantastic Frank! Good spotting 🙂
Lac Ste. Anne had hundreds of swans over the weekend on the open water near Val Quentin. For the past few weeks I have seen them in ponds and sloughs between Edmonton and Wabamun, too.
I have not paid much attention before but this year we must have 400+ Trumpeter swans gathered in our field where there is large water puddles from spring melt. They first showed the beginning of April and the group is only getting bigger. In what I’ve read about brief resting stops I’m surprised to see them still here. We’ll enjoy them while they are here.