Yellowstone Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans w/cygnet - HOPE

Trumpeter Swans w/cygnet - HOPE

Subzero temperatures broke as we descended off the Yellowstone Plateau, heading to the Bozeman airport after a great week of watching wolves in Lamar Valley. At a spring-fed pond near Livingston I was thrilled to spot four pair of Trumpeter Swans, one with a lone large, but tell-tale gray cygnet. We pulled over to watch them from a safe distance as they seemed a bit wary. The adults with the cygnet were vocal and I smiled as I heard their name-sake calls ring out in the clear cold air. Their calls seemed to lift towards the lofty peaks of the Absaroka Mountains that frame the east side of Paradise Valley. This wild haunting sound lifted my spirits as well. With so much cold weather, we had seen few swans this week. In winter, Yellowstone typically has three times as many Trumpeter Swans on its waters than in it holds in summer. At this time, birds that breed in Western Canada join the small core of Rocky Mountain Trumpeters that reside here year-round. Members of these two populations intermingle in places like this open water pond, nestled along side the largely-frozen Yellowstone River. I could not be sure if these cygnets had made the long migration with others of Western Canadian origin or if they might be some of the few survivors of challenging conditions that led to record-low reproduction in the Tri-State region surrounding Yellowstone this past summer. Recent reports from friend Ruth Shea, Director-At-Large of The Trumpeter Swan Society, have me concerned about the future of this signature bird of Yellowstone. Just a few days ago Ruth discussed this past year’s dismal statistics. Swan surveys in September of 2008 revealed the entire U.S. segment of the Rocky Mountain population has declined to less than 500 Trumpeters. Of these, 385 adults and 49 cygnets were tallied in Greater Yellowstone, by all measures still the core of this population. I could hope that these were progeny of the pair that typically inhabits this pond. I made a mental note to check with Ruth, or check this area’s status on the Trumpeter Swan’s Society’s website ( For the moment I just took in the beauty of elegant swans– a few with young — against mountains, blue sky and all things wild. Yellowstone’s Trumpeters can use our help. Why not join the Trumpeter Swan Society and give them a lift today!

Trumpeter Swan w/ cygnet – HOPE!

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