The trumpeter swan is the heaviest living bird native to North America, and one of the largest flying birds on the planet! They can weigh up to 33 lbs and have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres.
Swans are closely related to geese, but they are much larger, and have bigger necks and feet. Swans found in North America most often have white feathers. Swans have teeth-like features in their bills which they use for catching and chewing fish.
Male and female swans look very similar, except males are generally larger and weigh more than females. Young swans generally have grey plumage.
RANGE & HABITAT
Trumpeter swans in habitats with a freshwater source and lush vegetation for protection from predators and for themselves and their young. Some examples are ponds, marshes, lakes, and wetlands. When these freshwater areas freeze, swans may move to estuaries (habitats where freshwater rivers meet the saltwater ocean). Estuaries do not freeze because salt water is more resistant to freezing. Trumpeter swans are well adapted for the cold. Their dense layer of down feathers allows them to tolerate temperatures as low as -30C degrees!
Swan eggs take around 35 days to hatch. During this time the mother keeps them warm and protected in a nest, usually well- hidden in the swan’s habitat.
The baby swans are called cygnets. Cygnets can swim as soon as they are born but cannot fly for four to five months. Cygnets’ grey feathers turn white after two years. Swans fully mature at three years, and usually find a mate by the time they turn four. Swans have one mate for life.
Swans usually live less than 10 years in the wild, but their population can still grow because they have new offspring each year, and they are very protective of their young. Once swans have a new set of cygnets, they leave the previous year’s offspring to fend for themselves.
Predators include foxes, wolves, and racoons. These predators are a significant threat to swans’ eggs, which motivates swans to hide their nests in thick vegetation.
TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Swans and swan eggs are a traditional food source for some Coastal and Interior First Nations.
Humans hunt swans for sport in North America and use swan feathers for things like pillows, duvet covers, and even jackets!
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
- A fear of swans is known as Cygnophobia or kiknophobia
- Swans can fly up to 80 km an hour!
Photo: American Bird Conservancy