Sunday, November 29, 2015

Trumpeter Swans at Maumee Bay State Park

There is nothing more noble on a lake than a Trumpeter Swan gliding through the water, and it's a sight uncommon down in Cincinnati (meaning I've never seen a pair of Trumpeters on any lakes, ponds or wetlands near us...with the exception of Swan Lake at the Cincinnati Zoo), but up in northern Ohio, Trumpeter Swans are almost a common sight. At least they were for us when we were at Maumee Bay earlier in November...

A Trumpeter Swan on the inland lake at Maumee Bay State Park near Toledo, Ohio.
(Photo courtesy of my cousin, Curg. I didn't have my camera with me, so Curg stepped in and captured this fellow!)

In Cincinnati we have Mute Swans on some of our ponds and lakes, which are also beautiful, but not native, so I was really excited to see these huge native swans in the wild! Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl in North America and create quite an impressive sight. In the early 1900s Trumpeters were almost hunted to extinction. Their feathers, skins, meat and eggs were in demand, and hunting coupled with habitat destruction nearly wiped them out. Through habitat restoration, protection and reintroduction, Trumpeter Swans have survived and are now making a comeback!

Two Trumpeter Swans were inseparable on the inland lake at Maumee Bay State Park. I assume they are a mated pair because Trumpeter Swans are monogamous and mate for life. (Photo credit to my cousin, Curg.)

How to tell the difference between a Trumpeter Swan, a Tundra Swan, and a Mute Swan...
Three species of swans live in North America: the Trumpeter Swan (the largest swan), the Tundra Swan (the smallest of the three), and the Mute Swan. The Trumpeter Swan and the Tundra Swan are native. The Mute Swan is an exotic, invasive Eurasian species introduced in the late 1800s as a decorative pond species. Originally, owners kept their wings clipped to keep them on their ponds, but over time, several escaped and now breed in feral populations. Mute Swans are easy to identify. They have large orange bills with a black knob. It's a little harder to tell Trumpeter and Tundra Swans apart since they both have black bills, but there are specific field marks that help you ID the birds. Here are a few sites to help you learn the differences:

Click here for a guide from the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary that explains how to tell the swans apart. It even has a little interactive test to help you learn the differences.
Click here for swan identification tips from the Trumpeter Swan Society.
Click here for a 6-page printable pdf that explains how to spot the field marks that differentiate swans and geese.

If you read any of the ID tips on the links above, you learned Trumpeter Swans are often described as wearing "lipstick." If you look closely, you can see that field mark in this photo. ( credit to my cousin, Curg.)

The field ID marks of a Mute Swan are easy to orange bill with a black knob.
(I photographed this fellow back in 2009 on a pond near my house.)

Trumpeter Swans are making a comeback in Ohio, but they are not safe yet...
The exotic Eurasian Mute Swans populating many of the lakes and ponds in Ohio are very aggressive and can outcompete Trumpeter Swans trying to establish a territory. They also are voracious eaters and can deplete aquatic vegetation for native waterfowl and even destroy entire wetland ecosystems, further squeezing out Trumpeter Swans.

Click here for a post titled "Swan Song," by John Windau on the Wild Ohio Education blog that explains in more detail the Trumpeter's plight and the steps taken to reintroduce them to Ohio.
Click here for details from the ODNR Division of Wildlife.
Click here for two previous posts with photos of Mute Swans and their cygnets on a pond near my house.

Migrating Tundra Swans at Maumee Bay...
We also saw a small flock of migrating Tundra Swans on the inland lake as well. They were off in the distance and didn't stay long. It was an impressive sight to watch them take off together to move on to another lake.

This post is part of our recent Big Water trip to Maumee Bay, click here for more posts in the series.


L Livingston Studio said...

Great post Kelly. I can't believe our luck of seeing them. I still can't believe how loud their thunder of take off was. We heard it across the harbor. Truly a blessing. Great trip. And to all who read this, never go to Maumee Bay in the first week of November. And thanks for the photo credit. Im a rock star now.

Kelly said... true. It's so nice having the place almost all to ourselves! I loved watching them and listening to them run across the water and then take off as well!!

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

"thunder of their take off." So that's where they got their name?

Kelly said...

Hi Mary Ann.....they get their name from their call. They sound a bit like a trumpet! Very cool...

Tammie Lee said...

they are so lovely.
we have white swans, but I do not know what kind they are. I will look for the lipstick.

Roy Norris said...

Interesting info about the Trumpeter Kelly.
We get the Whooper and the Bewick's swans in Winter which have a similar looks, but yellow and black beaks.
Mutes Swans are the resident species and can be seen just about anywhere.

Kelly said...

Hi Tammie....I bet you get Trumpeters and Tundras out in Montana!

Hi Roy....I need to look up the Whooper and the Bewick's Swans. I bet they are gorgeous.

Laure Ferlita said...

Such beautiful, majestic creatures! I can only imagine the sounds they must make taking off. What a treat!

Kelly said...

Hi Laure! ....I'm glad Curg had his camera with him to capture that beauty....and yes, they make a spectacular sound taking off. I love listening to any waterfowl taking off, but these guys are huge, making take-off even more spectacular.

E said...

Wonderful pics, Kelita, congratulations.
Have a Feliz Navidad, enjoy the holidays. Hugs to all.