The Swan Migration and Swan Species

Three swan species can be found in the United States: the whistling swan, the mute swan and the trumpeter swan.
By Fred Schaaf
October/November 1999
Add to My MSN

October and November mark the months that many swans migrate South.

Content Tools

Related Content

Adobe is Political--And Vaulted, Domed and Gorgeous

Simone Swan built her off-the-grid domed and vaulted home in Presidio, Texas, as a model of how fina...

Knut Turns 1

They grow up so fast ...

Swans and Doughnuts

Have you ever wondered what is in an "industrial" doughnut?

Luck Changes for Endangered Right Whales

Politicians are requiring ships to slow down, and scientists are tracking right whale communication....

October and November are when whistling swans, after summering in subarctic and even arctic lands, migrate through the Great Lakes region and arrive at their wintering grounds on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The whistling swan owes its name not to its vocal abilities, but instead to the "singing" of its beating wings. Its largest wintering ground appears to be in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay.

The swans you see in summer floating serenely at your local park are most likely mute swans—partly domesticated birds imported from Europe. The mute swan can easily be distinguished from the whistling swan (as well as America's only other variety, the trumpeter swan) by its neck, which is not held straight but rather in an exquisite curve.

Our third swan species, the trumpeter, is somewhat larger than the whistling swan but otherwise looks similar from afar.

Unfortunately, any straight-necked swan seen today in either the eastern or western U.S. is probably a whistling swan. I say unfortunately because the trumpeter was once common across all of America until it was hunted—sometimes the flightless young were even lassoed from boats—into near-extinction. Protection finally came by way of conservation laws passed in 1924, but by then the trumpeter's numbers had dwindled to an estimated 50 birds. Fortunately, 30 years later, the population was back up to 642 and even now the recovery continues. But you are still unlikely to see a trumpeter outside the northern Rockies.

What did we almost lose in the trumpeter swan? The largest of North America's waterfowl, a snow-white bird weighing as much as 36 pounds, with a body up to six-feet long and a wingspan up to ten-feet wide.

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.