National Wildlife Refuge System

Solo is a Dad


Solo, the trumpeter swan who has been residing at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (WA) for more than 25 years, has fathered his first brood of cygnets in more than two decades.

Biologists believe Solo may be one of the original cygnets reintroduced to Turnbull Refuge in the 1960s. Solo's longtime mate was killed by a coyote in 1988, but Solo kept returning to the refuge each spring. He attracted a few females but there was never a family – until this year, when Solo met Leia.

Refuge manager Nancy Curry began checking their nest regularly. "As I watched through a spotting scope, I saw some little white things by Leia's tail. Then a head popped up. I was jumping up and down by that time." Appropriately enough, four cygnets were born on Father's Day weekend. With Solo guarding, the mother swan led her four cygnets off the nest and into the water. Cygnets are able to go into the water a day after they hatch.

One new concern for Solo will come this fall when the weather turns cold. "His non-migratory behavior is of some concern," says refuge biologist Mike Rule. "The female likely has a migratory tradition. Solo could leave with the female and cygnets to her wintering area. He could stay and she leaves with the cygnets, or they could all stay following the male. If the female and cygnets stay there isn't a very good track record for overwinter survival of swans in this area beyond the obvious success of Solo. This is especially a concern for young inexperienced swans."

These are the first cygnets born at Turnbull Refuge in 22 years – and Solo was the father then too. Biologists have determined that Solo is at least 28 years old and possibly in his forties, even though most swans live only 20-30 years.


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Last updated: August 19, 2009