Sunday, 4 January 2015

Trumpeter Swan (Cygne trompette)

Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator

     I must freely confess to being a tad enraptured by Trumpeter Swans and whenever I see them, (frequently by the way), I get a little surge of emotion comprised of wonderment, respect and a deep admiration of their beauty. When I hear them trumpeting to each other (hence their name) I am filled with a sense of wilderness even though I only ever see them at their wintering quarters on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

     In my fanciful mind I can easily be transported to some northern lake and hear the birds coming in to establish a breeding territory.
     It is only due to the dedicated work of Harry Lumsden that we get to enjoy these swans at all ( and to the continued efforts of Bev Kingdon ( who tirelessly works to ensure their continued well being.

     The Trumpeter Swan is a truly magnificent bird. It is the largest of all the swans, although individual Mute Swans Cygnus olor in rare cases may be heavier. Its bill is quite massive and jet black, with no trace of yellow, thus avoiding any possible confusion with Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus, a species sometimes present alongside Trumpeter Swans at the locations where I observe them.

       The large yellow wing tags are unsightly to be sure, and I would prefer another way to identify the birds, but Bev assures me that this method has been the most effective yet tried and that, while the population is now robust and growing, it still needs to be closely monitored. The swans are now venturing farther and farther afield and the high visibility of the wing tags enables people to report sightings. There have been recent reports of birds encountered in the southern United States and in the Saguenay area of Québec. Birders can easily read the numbers through a scope, whereas reliance on the leg band only would almost certainly require the bird to be shot before it could be reported. 

     It is always very encouraging to see young birds, usually with their parents who guard and protect them for at least the first winter following hatching. Adults help their cygnets to feed by scratching at the bottom of the pond or lake to bring vegetation and invertebrates to the surface, although as the young grow to the size of their parents they are capable of performing this action for themselves.

     Look at the detail on the head shots of these cygnets, already well-equipped to handle the world, and to survive the harsh weather an Ontario winter often brings.

     I have noticed several people bringing corn to supplement the natural food of the birds, especially as the ice builds up close to the shore and they are forced to feed in deeper water. I have little doubt that this contributes to increased survival rates.

     It is perhaps in flight that these birds are at their most impressive and it is a stirring sight to see them in the air, their huge wings outstretched.

     When they land on the water they use their large webbed feet to "water ski" to a soft landing, and settle in with their companions for another day in the saga of the Trumpeter Swan.

      Long may they brighten our lives.


  1. I love these beautiful birds ! Great pictures !
    Have a nice Sunday !

  2. Hello David,
    Beautiful series of photographs of this Trumpeter Swan.
    All captured perfectly.
    I've never seen these.
    Best regards, Irma

  3. Brilliant images David, but, why do they, birders, put a large notice on it, I'm sure there is a better way.

    1. Hi Bob: It is not birders who attach the tags, but biologists and licensed banders. As explained in the narrative above it has proven to be the most effective method of tracking the birds, but I agree with you that it is not pretty.

  4. Que bonitas las fotografías en vuelo. Saludos desde España.

  5. Our swan researchers in the Melbourne area put neck tubes on, and that looks worse. They are beautiful, David. I was just looking at my Trumpeter Swan images from Yellowstone yesterday as I'm doing a presentation on "Cool birds of the ice and snow" to a local BirdLife group in April and getting it ready - cooling in our summer heat! They really are majestic.

  6. Beautiful photos and lovely bierds. Have a Happy New Year.

  7. Bird marking is not interesting, but the birds do not mind, it's the most important. I've never seen such swans and thank you for showing them. Regards.

  8. This post is really interesting, David. I don't know if I've ever seen a trumpeter swan, although I know I've seen swans. Whenever I hear a loon, it instantly puts me back in the north. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos and your knowledge about birds!

  9. Great photos!! Beautiful birds :)
    Hope you had a Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Mariana. Hope to see you again soon.

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  11. Nice birds, just a little strange these markings.
    Greets ;-)

    Happy New Year!!!

  12. Top shots of these beauties!

  13. I share your enthusiasm for the beauty and truly wild swans David. It in our case it is the Whooper Swans and Bewicks Swans both of which come from equally northern lands to winter in Britain. There is nothing quite like standing on the marshes in October and hearing the sound of Whooper Swans calling in unison as they arrive here. "It's good to be back in England" they seem to be saying.

    By the way, all that cold and snow that Canada is exporting to the USA.(SKY News). Please send it due south and not in the direction of the UK.

  14. Just like your other post with all the marvelous birds , this was a real treat to see also. Amazing photos of the elegant swans.

  15. Hello David,
    Don't worry, you're not the only one behind with comments...!!!
    I have difficulties coping too and if all goes well, in about 3 weeks time it should hopefully get worse!!! ;-)
    A great post about these magnificent swans, and for the tagging I agree, it doesn't look good, let's hope when the colony has increased significantly its numbers that hey won't have to tag the birds anymore.
    In Europe tagging is out of control, any association can do what it wants and this drives me mad when you know how stressed the birds are when caught and manipulated. Their follow up should remain in expert hands like in the Bewicks swan case, full stop!!!
    I hope you are both well, hugs to share with Miriam :)

  16. Swans are and remain beautiful waterfowl. This shows that in your post, I have never seen. I know the mute swans (with red beak) and the wild swans and small (they have black / yellow beaks) The swans with you all have all black beaks! Great to see out these!