Trumpeter Swan
FWS Focus

Overview

The trumpeter swan is a majestic bird, with snowy white feathers; jet-black bill, feet, and legs; and 8-foot wingspan. At close range, a thin orange-red line can be seen on the lower part of the bill. The trumpeter is often confused with the smaller, more northerly tundra swan, especially where their ranges overlap. The major differences between the two are their size, call, and migration. The trumpeter swan is roughly twice the size of the tundra swan; has a deep, sonorous call; and is either non-migratory or migrates relatively short distances. The tundra swan weighs approximately 15 pounds, has a high whistling call, and migrates long distances between summer and winter ranges.

Characteristics
Overview

Trumpeter swans are the largest birds native to North America. Trumpeter swans have a large, stout, black bill and males can have a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. Trumpeters feed mostly on aquatic plants, although in winter they may forage on waste grain and grasses in farm fields.

Scientific Name

Cygnus buccinator
Common Name
Trumpeter Swan
FWS Category
Birds
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

The trumpeter swan is a majestic bird, with snowy white feathers, jet-black bill, feet and legs. They have an average 8-foot wingspan, but larger males can reach a wing span of up to 10 feet. At close range, a thin orange-red line can be seen on the lower part of the bill.

MeasurementsLength: 54.3 to 62.2 in (138 to 158 cm)Wingspan: 80 in (203 cm)

Sound

Both males and females make a deep oh-OH call. The second syllable is emphasized. 

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Trumpeter swan habitat includes a lot of variety: riverine wetlands, lakes, ponds, marshes, open wooded regions and prairies. In winter, they can be found on tidal estuaries.

Wetland
Lake
Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Trumpeter swans are mainly vegetarians, often feeding on a broad range of aquatic plants, including pondweeds,  sedges, rushes, duckweed, wild rice and algae. However, they occasionally eat small fish and fish eggs. In the winter months their diet includes crops such as corn and barley.

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Trumpeter swans establish life-long mates at approximately 3 years of age and nest the following year. Sometime between late March and early May, they build their nests close to the water. The male will gather nest material, uprooting marsh plants such as cattails and sedges. He will present them to the female for placement. The nest reaches a diameter of 6 to 12 feet (1.8 to 3.7 m) and an average height of 18 inches (45.7 cm). The female will then lay one egg every other day for a total of 3 to 9 eggs. 

Geography

Characteristics
Range

The historic breeding range extended in a wide band from the Bering Sea, east through almost all of Canada and as far south as Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Today, birds breeding along the coast of Alaska and Canada migrate to the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Breeding pairs from the Alaskan and Canadian interior winter in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Most southern populations are non-migratory. 

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