Trumpeter Swans


Trumpeter swans are majestic birds. To many people, they embody grace, beauty, and unspoiled wildness. The swans also serve as an inspiring reminder that we can save some species that have been reduced to near extinction.

Many trumpeter swans migrate south from Canada to winter in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to join year-round residents. Visitors to the National Elk Refuge enjoy photographing and watching the beautiful birds.

In the early 1900s, the trumpeter swan was hunted nearly to extinction for its skin, feathers, meat, and eggs. Passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave protections to trumpeter swans and other birds and helped curb illegal killing. 

In 1932, fewer than 70 trumpeters were known to exist worldwide, at a location near Yellowstone National Park. This led to the establishment of Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935, which is located in Montana's Centennial Valley and is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Nearly half of the known trumpeter swans in 1932 were found in this area. Over the years, the Red Rock Lakes refuge flock served as an important source of breeding birds for reintroduction efforts in other parts of the country. 

Trumpeter swans are presently classified as a Priority 1 Species of Special Concern by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, a regionally sensitive species by the US Forest Service, and of great interest to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Greater Yellowstone region is home for the Tri-State subpopulation of trumpeter swans and is the largest breeding area for swans in the lower 48 states. In spite of harsh winter conditions, swans often both breed and winter in the region. 

Several photographs of trumpeter swans are posted in the Birds of the National Elk Refuge photo collection in the National Elk Refuge's photo gallery.