Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan


North America; mainly in Western Canada, Northwestern United States, and the northern Midwest


Ponds, lakes, fresh bodies of water and occasionally grain fields.


Trumpeter swans are the largest of all swans. They are all white except for black bills and feet that range from gray to black. These swans have a wingspan well over seven feet from tip to tip. When they stand on the ground, their long necks make the birds stand more than four feet tall. Male swans weigh in at over 30 pounds. That makes them one of the heaviest flying birds anywhere. Juvenile trumpeters are grayish and slightly darker on the head, with a black- trimmed pink beak. These swans (both males and females) give off a loud and deep honking call that sounds like a bugle or trumpet. This noise is produced in the syrinx (or voice box)--which is so long it coils around the swans’ breastbone. Trumpeter swans are well adapted to the cold temperatures in which they live and have a thick layer of down that enables them to tolerate relatively long periods of subzero temperature. These large waterfowl may live up to 30 years in captivity.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter swans are usually found in small flocks. They tend to form pair bonds at 2 or 3 years of age and stay bonded for life. Trumpeter swans molt once a year and this leaves them flightless for about a month. However, male swans lose their feathers after the female swans start to get theirs back. This allows one of the parents to be with the young swans at all times. Trumpeter swans are largely sedentary and usually only migrate from breeding areas to fairly close winter habitats. However, trumpeter swans that live in colder regions, like Alaska, tend to migrate farther distances depending on the weather. Mated pairs of trumpeter swans will usually nest in the same place year after year. Consequently, these pairs tend to defend their lake from other swans. When two trumpeter swans greet each other they set off a great, loud display of honking and spreading their wings.


These swans mate for life, forming strong family bonds. Trumpeters usually nest for the first time when they are 4 or 5 years old. They build blocky, platform-like nests of plant matter, often at the water\\\\\\\'s edge, on top of a beaver dam, or small island. The nests are constructed in emergent vegetation. Clutches of five to nine eggs are laid in April or May, and then incubated by the females for a little more than a month (33-37 days). Young trumpeter swans develop quickly and are fully feathered after 9 or 10 weeks. However, they will not fly until anywhere from 13 to 17 weeks old. Young swans stay with their parents through the first winter and siblings will often stay together until their third year.

Interesting Facts:

A male swan is called a cob, and a female, a pen. Trumpeter swans skins were once used for ladies powder puffs. Swan feathers were prized as adornments for fashionable hats, and quills were made into pens.

Trumpeter Swan

Making a comeback Trumpeter swans used to fly the skies all over the northern United States and Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. But settlers hunted these big birds and introduced them to the European animal trade. The skins were used for ladies powder puffs. Swan feathers were prized as adornments for fashionable hats, and quills were made into pens. By 1920, the trumpeter swan was a vanishing species, and by 1933, only 77 trumpeters were breeding in Canada and 50 trumpeters were breeding in the United States. In the mid 1930s, the U.S and Canadian governments established wildlife refuges along the waterways of the trumpeters’ original range. By banning hunting and restricting livestock grazing, conservationists were able to protect both the birds and their habitats. The result was that trumpeter swans made a strong comeback by the 1960s. By 1984, trumpeter swans were no longer in danger of extinction. Once considered endangered on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species List, recent reintroduction success and federal protection has resulted in removal of the trumpeter swan from the list. Today the trumpeter is protected from hunting throughout their range. It has successfully established breeding populations in several western refuges but it is now only an occasional migrant to Utah in the winter. Breeding populations are also flourishing in Alaska, Canada, and in reintroduced populations in several Midwestern states. There are currently between 12,000 and 16,000 wild trumpeter swans in North America. Although our conservation efforts are working for these swans, their existence is not secure. Hunters often confuse trumpeter swans with tundra swan and snow geese, both of which are legal to hunt in Utah. Lead poisoning, disappearing wetland habitats and predation of young also threaten their survival. Continued education and conservation are necessary to protect these majestic birds.

Did YOU Know?    
Trumpeter swans are the largest and rarest of all swans.
Trumpeter Swan
Native Utah Animal
Class: birds
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Cygnus
Species: buccinator
Length: Body: 5 to 6 feet; Wingspan 7+ feet
Height: 4 feet (can stretch to 6 feet)
Weight: 20 to 30 pounds
Average Lifespan: 15
Wild Diet: Mostly vegetarian (leaves, stems, seeds, and grain tubers); occasionally insects, aquatic invertebrates, small reptiles and fish.
Predators: Coyotes, minks, river otters, and golden eagles often prey on young swans. Once trumpeter swans reach adulthood and can fly, they are very rarely preyed upon.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Discovery Land: Duck Pond

Learn more about birds or animals from North America!
Or, cross-reference the two!