The largest native waterfowl, trumpeter swans migrate to Wyoming and the Yellowstone Ecosystem from points north to spend winter on open water.
They are particularly abundant in and around the world’s first national park and along the Green River, where this photograph was taken by Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge manager Tom Koerner last month. Some 70 live year-round in Jackson Hole but 300-500 winter there. Another 100 winter in Star Valley and up to 300 at Seedskadee, Wyoming Game and Fish employees Mark Gocke and Susan Patla said.
Male trumpeters weigh on average more than 25 pounds. They usually mate for life, but only begin nesting at about four years old. To get their significant weight airborne, they need an open-water runway that’s about 100 yards long.
The scientific name Cygnus buccinator, comes from the Latin word buccinare, to trumpet, according to the Cornell lab of Ornithology, which notes that human cheek muscles are called buccinators. You can hear the birds’ trumpet-like sound here.
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The Yellowstone Ecosystem was critical to trumpeter recovery after the species was hunted to fewer than 70 birds at the start of the last century. About half of those survivors lived just west of Yellowstone National Park. They were saved by passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 and creation of Montana’s Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935, among other actions.
Beaver and muskrats are important partners, creating wetlands and lodges that aid nesting trumpeters.
What will happen to the swans during the Fontenelle Dam project that will drastically change the lake and Green River flow?