Seabirds & Waterfowl - Sounds Wild
Trumpeter Swans


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Trumpeter Swans

As spring comes to the north and the ice goes out on lakes and rivers, a giant white bird can be seen winging into Interior Alaska - the trumpeter swan.

Weighing as much as 25 pounds, the trumpeter swan is the heaviest wild bird in North America and the biggest swan on earth. Heading north in the spring on wings that can span eight-feet, these snow white giants fly in goose-like Vee-formation, stopping to rest and feed on emerging aquatic vegetation. Geese, ducks and tundra swans often accompany the trumpeter swans at these stopovers, benefitting from the vigilant trumpeter's keen eyesight.

Trumpeter swans are dabblers and feed in water like mallard ducks, head down and feet up, tearing aquatic plants from the bottom. They also use their webbed feet to dig up bank-side roots and tubers.

Trumpeters were on the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, due to unrestricted market hunting, egg collecting and the lucrative international feather trade. The discovery of a population around Alaska's Copper River in the 1950s provided a source for reintroductions, and the trumpeter has made a remarkable comeback.

Alaska is the summer home to most of the world's trumpeter swans. They build their nests on beaver lodges and mounds of vegetation in shallow freshwater marshes and lakes. Pairs form long term bonds and will return to the same nest year after year to lay eggs and raise their young.