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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.


Male and female Trumpeter Swans give the characteristic deep, trumpeting “oh-OH” call, with the second syllable emphasized. The call is softer and more nasal-sounding when made with the mouth closed. Trumpeter Swans call to keep the pair or family together, to defend territories, or to sound an alarm. Both sexes also use a flat-toned, single-syllable “hoo” call to locate each other. Younger swans make a higher-pitched call, and develop their adult tone by the time they’re 6–8 months old..

Other Sounds

Trumpeter Swans slap the water aggressively with their large webbed feet when approaching an intruder. Their wings and feet also slap the water’s surface during takeoff.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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