January 8, 2019
A Special Swan
- as seen by -Samantha Gaeta
With a wingspan that can exceed 10 feet and weighing up to 30 lbs, trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinators) are the largest of the waterfowl species. Even with this designation, these birds still fall prey to bigger mammals and are also hunted by humans.
Trumpeter swans are dabblers and eat aquatic plants, fish, and bugs. They are native to North America and are currently undergoing a population management program. Trumpeters first received nationwide protection in 1918, the year that the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the Migratory Bird Treaty. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a Wildlife Species Restoration project that is gradually acclimating swans to their new environment before fully releasing them back into the wild. Several institutions are collaborating with US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Trumpeter Swan Society to begin this soft release program. At WCS’s Bronx Zoo, we have joined the effort.
Earlier this year, our breeding pair of trumpeter swans successfully reared one cygnet (above). The little female was hatched on June 29, 2018. Her parents raised her for 106 days before she was weaned on September 21. Human interaction was minimal to help ensure her transition back into the wild would go smoothly.
On November 19, the juvenile was shipped from the Bronx Zoo to Iowa where she was released into an 18-acre enclosure with a number of cygnets of varying ages. The young swan has protection from predators and is adjusting to her new home before she is released. In a few months, that facility plans to release the entire flock into the wild.