Migratory Bird Management
Alaska Region



Alaska Trumpeter Swan Survey

Trumpeter Swan graphic

Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) summer in Alaska in the forested wetlands of the interior and along the coastal plain from Cook Inlet south to the Chilkat Valley. They historically wintered in estuaries and fresh water lakes and streams from Cook Inlet to the Columbia River in Washington and perhaps as far south as California, but primarily in British Columbia (Bellrose 1976). In recent years a growing proportion of them are spending a major part of their winter cycle foraging in farm fields from southern British Columbia to California.

Records of Trumpeters in Alaska go back to at least the 1860's (Banko 1960, Dall and Banister 1869), but a breeding population was not described until 1954 (Monson 1956). Shortly after this, additional nesting Trumpeters were identified on the Kenai Peninsula, the Gulkana area, and the Minto area near Fairbanks (Hansen et al. 1971).

Early attempts to census Trumpeters from the air found 1,124 in 1959 and were described by Hansen et al. (1971). Poor quality maps precluded accurate plotting of swan sightings, thus that survey can not be directly compared with the censuses starting in 1968. By 1968 nearly the entire Trumpeter nesting habitat in Alaska was covered by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) l:63,360 (1 inch = 1 mile, 25 mm = 1.6 km) scale topographic maps with contour intervals of 100 feet (30.5 m). The 1968 Trumpeter Swan census included all known nesting habitats except the Kuskokwim and the Koyukuk units and every swan sighting was marked on a 1:63,360 scale map. Statewide aerial censuses in 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 and 1995 included all summering habitat, followed the same procedures and thus are all directly comparable. The total number of trumpeter swans counted in 1995 was 15,823.

Last Updated: September 15, 2008