Photo of the Month: Trumpeter Swan

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Trumpeter swan; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: The trumpeter swan is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its relatively large range. However, this bird was nearly hunted to extinction in the 1930s; its feathers were used for pillow stuffing, and its skin was used for gloves. Now protected in the Canada and the U.S., the main challenge for this swan is reestablishing migratory routes.

Habitat: This species is found in the U.S. and Canada from parts of Alaska east to Saskatchewan and south to Washington and Oregon. Historically, it ranged as far south as California, and it has been reintroduced in several other states. Swans prefer ponds, lakes, and rivers with large beds of sedges, bulrushes, and cattails.

Diet: This herbivorous bird spends up to eight hours a day foraging for the aquatic vegetation that makes up its diet.

One of seven swan species, the trumpeter is the world’s largest waterfowl with a wingspan of roughly 6.5 feet and a weight of up to 25 pounds. It flies with extraordinary power, but due to its weight, is unable to launch directly from the water. The swan must paddle along the surface about 18 feet before taking off.

The trumpeter’s syrinx (sound-producing organ) is extremely large, generating the deep trumpet tones that inspire its name. Like many birds, swans have large eyes with superb visual acuity. These birds can see light in the near-ultraviolet range, most of which is reflected from their feathers, perhaps giving trumpeter swans a much different view of each other than we have.

The Zoo’s trumpeter swans, a male and a female, are on exhibit at the waterfall across from the meerkats. Any offspring produced by this pair will be released into the wild Pacific Coast population.