Please report Trumpeter Swans
by Wyoming Game & Fish
December 4, 2006
It's that time of year when North America's trumpeter swans are on the move to southern wintering areas and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking information on observations of the majestic white birds. Game and Fish would especially like details on marked swans that are observed.
Many states, in addition to Wyoming (Idaho, Montana and Alaska), have been marking birds with colored neck collars and/or leg bands and are seeking location information.
"Most states don't have the money or ability to track a bird that moves such great distances, so we rely heavily on reports from the public, particularly birder-watchers and waterfowl hunters," said Game and Fish Nongame Biologist Susan Patla. "It helps that these birds are so visible, so we've gotten some great observations from people in the past. It's very valuable data to us and we really appreciate it."
Patla says neck collars could be seen in a variety of colors including green, blue and red and they typically have a unique combination of letters and/or numbers on them, which provides a way of identifying individual birds. A keen observer with a spotting scope may also be able to see colored numbered leg bands also.
From collar information, biologists can determine migration patterns, important habitat areas, and how long swans live. If you see marked swans, please report color and codes (if visible) along with location and date to the local Wyoming Game and Fish office. You can also leave a message with your name and contact information at (800) 423-4113.
Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America. Several thousands trumpeters migrate south from interior Canada to winter in the Greater Yellowstone Area. As many as 300 to 700 will winter in western Wyoming along with the approximately 100 resident swans that live year round in the area.
Intermixed with the trumpeter flocks may be their close relative: the tundra swan. At a distance, it can be impossible to determine species even for experienced bird watchers. This slightly smaller species nests far north in arctic wetlands and most will continue to pass through the state to winter farther south in Utah, Nevada or California.
Listening to vocalizations can be the easiest way to separate the two different species. The tundra swan gives a much higher pitched call compared to the deep-voiced trumpeter. Adult Tundra's usually have a distinct yellow mark on the bill just below the eye. The young of the year, or cygnets, of both species will be gray, but trumpeter young have pinkish legs and feet compared to dark black of Tundra cygnets.