The trumpeter swan, the largest waterfowl species native to North America, was at one time considered an endangered species. They had been hunted to near extinction for their feathers, skin, meat, and eggs, and by 1900 the species had greatly declined in numbers, until, by 1970 fewer than 70 were known to exist in the wild. Then a small population was discovered in remote mountain valleys of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and in the early 1950s, a larger population was found in Alaska. By 2010 the North American population had increased to over 46,000 birds. Now it is no longer a rare bird, but this is the first I had seen one, so I was delighted with the opportunity to take some photos of this beautiful bird that can have a wingspan that exceeds 10 feet.
Except for a black bill, legs, and feet, the trumpeter swan is completely white, although, like the one we saw, their head and neck may be stained a rusty brown because of the ferrous minerals in the wetland soils where they make their habitat. They feed on aquatic plants, and I was fascinated to watch this solitary bird floating gracefully in the marsh, repeatedly dipping its head under the water to search out tasty plants. Click on one of the pictures below to scroll through the gallery, and you will see that he has been doing exactly that. At one point, I saw him trying to pull up a heavy clump of wet plants.
NOTE: Sometimes these birds are confused with the mute swan, which is an unpopular invasive species, but the two are not the same. A group of swans can be called by many nouns, including a ballet, bevy, drift, regatta, and a school!
Trail walking can be educational as well as good exercise and lots of fun.Thank you for joining me on the trail today.