The Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl in North America, with an average wingspan of more than 6 feet (the largest was more than 10 ft.). Distinctive by their all white plumage and black bill, they are long lived birds, living up to 32 years. Swans are monogamous for the most part, usually choosing one mate to stay with for life. The winter in lakes, streams, springs, rivers and reservoirs to the south but migrate north and breed in freshwater marshes and along ponds and lakes. Minimal human disturbance is preferred for breeding sites, as well as enough open space for them to take off on the water. They feed on submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation, grasses and grains.
Chick hatch with the ability to leave the nest and swim and feed within 24 hours of breaking out of their shells. Brood size ranges from a single chick to up to 9. They are grey when they hatch but turn white after they are a year old.
Trumpeter Swan Restoration in Iowa
In 1993, the Iowa DNR developed a plan to restore the population of trumpeter swans in Iowa. The goals were to establish 15 wild nesting pairs back to the state by the 2003 and use swans to promote the benefits of wetlands for wildlife habitat, water quality, and flood reduction.
To begin the project, trumpeter swans were acquired from zoos, private breeders, and other state swan projects that had swans available. All trumpeter swans released in Iowa were marked with plastic green and red neck collars, leg bands, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bands.
Three years into the project, it was noticed that most swans released in Iowa were wintering in northeast and east central Kansas and west-central Missouri. Major milestones were reached in 1998, 1999, and 2000 when wild trumpeter swans first nested in Iowa. The last time trumpeter swans nested in Iowa was in 1883. In 2012, 47 wild trumpeter swan pairs attempted nesting in Iowa, down from the 51 pair which nested in 2011.
To report sightings of marked trumpeter swans, a person must fill out a trumpeter swan observation form found on the DNR website. When filling out this form, it is helpful to provide as much information as possible about the observation, such as the date and the location of where the observation was made, total number of trumpeter swans in the group, total number of marked trumpeter swans in the group, habitat type, and any marker codes from the neck collars and leg bands. There have been over 4,000 observations of Iowa-released trumpeter swans reported to the Iowa DNR from as far away as Colorado, Virginia, Texas, and two provinces in Canada.
Trumpeter Swan Restoration in Buena Vista County
The Buena Vista County Swan Restoration Refuge was developed by DNR Conservation Officer, Chris Lloyd, in 1998. He brought together a group of people in the community who were passionate about saving the trumpeter swan from extinction and developed the Buena Vista County Trumpeter Swan Restoration Committee.
In January 1999, the group brought the first pair of breeding birds to the site at Highway 71. Since the beginning of the project, the committee has released over 90 young swans and the swans have been sighted as far away as Tennessee. Swans are now regularly returning to nest in the area.