• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Trumpeter Swan


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Trumpeter Swans demand superlatives: they’re our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds—almost twice as massive as a Tundra Swan. Getting airborne requires a lumbering takeoff along a 100-yard runway. Despite their size, this once-endangered, now recovering species is as elegant as any swan, with a graceful neck and snowy-white plumage. They breed on wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern U.S., and winter on ice-free coastal and inland waters.

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Trumpeter Swans are immense waterfowl with heavy bodies and long necks typically held straight both on the water and in flight. The large bill slopes gradually down from the forehead.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult Trumpeter Swans are entirely white with a black bill and black legs. Immatures are gray-brown.

  • Behavior

    Trumpeter Swans forage in fairly shallow water, reaching under the surface to eat aquatic vegetation and at times tipping up in the manner of a dabbling duck. They also visit agricultural fields to eat spilled or leftover grains and crops.

  • Habitat

    Trumpeter Swans breed in open habitats near shallow water bodies. They winter on estuaries, large lakes, and rivers that remain at least partially ice-free year-round. They sometimes forage in fields.

Range Map Help

Trumpeter Swan Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Trumpeter Swan

    • Very large white swan with all-black bill
    • Long sloping forehead
    • Long, gracefully curving neck
    • © Gary Tyson, Montezuma NWR, New York, April 2013
  • Adults and immatures

    Trumpeter Swan

    Adults and immatures
    • Largest swan species in North America
    • All black bill
    • Forehead slopes elegantly down to long bill
    • © Laura Erickson, New York, November 2009
  • Adult

    Trumpeter Swan

    • Very large swan with all-black bill
    • Long, sloping forehead
    • © Laura Erickson, St. Louis, Missouri, February 2008

Similar Species

Similar Species

Tundra Swans are much more numerous and widespread than Trumpeter Swans. Tundra Swans are smaller and their bills usually show a yellow spot at the bill base. The border between the bill and the white feathers of the head has a different shape in the two species: Tundra has an uneven line between mouth and eye, and a rounded margin between the top of the bill and the forehead. Mute Swans have a black knob at the base of their orange bill, and they typically hold their necks in a graceful S-curve, not straight as in Trumpeter Swan. Snow Geese are much smaller, with shorter necks, mostly pink bills, and black wingtips that are prominent in flight and usually also visible when the wings are folded.

Find This Bird

Look for these enormous swans on relatively shallow water or in agricultural fields. They’ll be straighter-necked than Mute Swans (and more likely to be in wild habitats rather than city ponds); and they’ll be considerably larger than the similar Tundra Swan. Trumpeter Swans have expanded their range in recent years as they continue their comeback from near-extinction. In fact, the species now nests across a broad swath of the Midwest/Great Lakes and in scattered portions of the Northern Rockies—meaning that in summer you’re more likely to find this species than the much more numerous Tundra Swan. Look for them in shallow ponds, lakes, rivers, and marshes. During migration and winter, you may also find Trumpeter Swans feeding in harvested agricultural fields.



Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.


The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.