Trumpeter swans were once gone from Iowa

Trumpeter swans are a majestic sight.

trumpeter swan

Their graceful long necks. Their brilliant white feathers. Their long, slender wings that help them hover above the earth.

As strong as they may look, being the largest waterfowl native to North America, they are not invincible. In fact, they were once extirpated --- extinct in a local region --- in Iowa.

After the settlement of Iowa, the last wild nesting trumpeter swan was documented in 1883 in Hancock County. By the 1930s, a nationwide swan count showed only 69 trumpeter swans resided in the United States, despite federal protection given in 1918 with the International Migratory Bird Treaty signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources developed a plan to bring trumpeter swans back to the state in 1993.

Photo of swans being released

Trumpeter swans were obtained from zoos, private propagators, other state swan projects and other sources and were re-introduced into Iowa. Swans released in the state were marked with neck collars and leg bands.

By 1998, three cygnets hatched from a wild nesting pair in Dubuque County, and the same pair hatched five cygnets in 1999 and again in 2000. Plus, more than 4,000 observations of Iowa banded trumpeter swans were reported to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

swan sighting map and timeline of reintroduction numbers

Because of the program's success, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources began to phase out the trumpeter swan restoration program after 18 years.

(Learn how to tell apart trumpeter swans and other large, white birds.)

Although trumpeter swans are beginning to flourish in Iowa, they still face a variety of threats:

  • Diseases, such as the avian flu, can have devastating consequences to waterfowl.
  • Loss of wetlands, or diminished quality of wetlands.
  • Fatal lead shot poisoning. Swans may swallow lead pellets in places where shooting occurs.
  • Illegal shooting of trumpeter swans.
  • Powerline collisions that can kill or injure swans.
  • Human disturbance of nesting sites or flushing out of winter swans, making them burn up energy reserves.

Kenue Park is home to two rehabilitated trumpeter swans that live on the wetland year-round. See how the Kenue Park trumpeter swans are fed by clicking here for a special video!


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