Did you know? Trumpeter Swans are the heaviest flying bird in North America. Males average over 26 pounds, to get that much mass in the air swans need at least a 300 foot-long “runway” of open water.
Trumpeter swans were killed for food and skins, first by Native Americans and then by white men upon arrival on the continent. The plumage trade peaked in the early 1800s and swan populations were dramatically reduced by the mid-1800s. Loss of habitat for this wetland-dependent species resulted in further declines.
Trumpeter swan restoration and management programs that began in the mid-1900s in the U.S. and Canada gradually boosted trumpeter swan populations. In 1996, Ohio became one of a number of states involved in reintroduction plans to restore trumpeter swans to the Midwest.
The adult trumpeter has snow white plumage with a black bill and feet; a young bird, or cygnet, is a sooty gray color with pinkish colored bill and feet. The neck and head feathers of an adult may be stained a rusty color from feeding in water that contains iron. The bill of a trumpeter swan may also have a red border on the lower jaw that gives the bird the appearance of wearing lipstick.
The long neck of the trumpeter swan is an adaptation that allows the bird to access food inaccessible to other species of waterfowl. The trumpeter can uproot plants in four feet of water.
Trumpeter swans are year-round residents and prefer large marshes and lakes ranging in size from 40 to 150 acres. They like shallow wetlands one to three feet deep with a diverse mix of plenty of emergent and submergent vegetation and open water. The bulk of their diet consists of arrowhead, sage pondweed, wild celery tubers, and the stems and leaves of waterweed, pondweeds, water milfoil, white water buttercup, muskgrass, burreed, and duckreed. They feed occasionally on freshwater invertebrates, snails, worms, seeds, and grain. Adult swans primarily feed in shallow water using their long necks to reach their food, but can also tip-up like dabbling ducks to feed in water four feet deep
The state-threatened trumpeter swan is found in wetlands in northern, central, and southeastern Ohio. In 2016, the number of breeding pairs increased to 74 pairs, 49 of which were successful. The number of cygnets has also jumped from a low in the 40s in 2012 and 2013, to the highest number ever of 178 in 2016. Possible explanations for these increases include improved control of invasive mute swans in breeding areas, and above average spring rainfall in recent years.
Best Viewing Opportunities
• Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa County
• Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Ottawa County
• Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Wyandot County
• County Road 252 area at Shenango Wildlife Area, Trumbull County
• Big Island Wildlife Area, Marion County
Fun facts about Trumpeter Swans.
• Trumpeter Swans usually mate for life.
• Trumpeter Swans take an unusual approach to incubation: they warm the eggs by covering them with their webbed feet.
• Their wing span is over 6.5 feet.
• Swans rub their bills in the oil-secreting uropygial gland near the base of the tail, then distributing the oil over the feathers to waterproof them.
• Trumpeter Swans are the heaviest flying bird in North America.
Information on this page was gathered from the website below and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For more information on the Trumpeter Swans and other important Ohio wildlife go to http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index