Swan numbers continue to increase


Trumpeter swan

Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator

Characteristics: A large, white swan has an 8-foot wingspan and a very long neck; adults have black bills, legs and feet. Sexes are similar. Males may be over 30 pounds. Adult plumage may be stained brownish red due to minerals. Juveniles are grayish brown.

Breeding: Builds a large but shallow nest of plant material. The floating nest is anchored to cattails, bulrush or other emergent aquatic plants. Lays two to 13 eggs that take 32 to 37 days to hatch.

Range: Breeding range is widespread but in limited numbers, from Alaska, to the Great Lakes and south to Nebraska.

Habitat: Found along rivers, marshes and lakes with dense vegetation.

Food: Leaves, roots and seeds of aquatic vegetation, as well as aquatic invertebrates and crustaceans. Uses its long neck to forage underwater.

Comments: These swans are the largest waterfowl in North America. Due to overhunting and habitat loss, trumpeter swans were considered regionally extinct in the early 1900s until nonmigratory populations were found in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Efforts to rebuild the population have shown success, and breeding pairs occur along the Deschutes River in Bend. The common name is after its trumpetlike call; buccinator is Latin for “a trumpeter.”

Current viewing: Deschutes River, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

— Damian Fagan is an East Cascades Audubon Society volunteer and Central Oregon Community College Community Learning instructor. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources, www.WhatBird.com, and The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John Terres