Many of you may have had the pleasure of seeing surprising numbers of Trumpeter Swans this year at the town of Westport, the Narrows Lock and elsewhere on Upper Rideau Lake.
We are indeed very fortunate to be able to witness, close up, the largest native bird in Canada. They were hunted to extirpation (locally extinct) in the late 1800’s in Canada and most of the USA and are only now beginning to thrive again after many years of reintroduction efforts and research. They were hunted for their meat, feathers, and even the leather on their feet. The last one in Ontario is believed to have been shot in 1886.
Just recently, the Trumpeter Swan Society held a webinar entitled “The Ontario Swan Story” which provided a wealth of information about the Trumpeter Swan and the 40 years of coordinated efforts to repopulate areas in Canada and the USA with these graceful waterfowl.
I invite you to view this interesting webinar (1:01 hour) below:
Trumpeter Swans are not to be confused with Mute Swans.
Trumpeter have completely black beaks and black legs when mature, while the Mute Swan has an orange and black beak. The Mute Swan is considered an invasive species in Ontario and was introduced in the late 1880’s. They sometimes aggressively compete with Trumpeter Swans for nesting sites.
The Trumpeter Swan project has been studying the birds through their banding and wing tag program. They are able to assess the health of the swans, track their locations, study their mating habits, identify and track their offspring and examine trends in their migration and spread to neighbouring areas.
If you see a swan with a visible yellow wing tag and you can read the letter/number combination, you can report it to the Trumpeter Swan Conservation Ontario.
It is up to all of us to ensure that we protect and improve the local habitat for these swans and other wildlife. Naturalization of shorelines, protecting water quality and using lead-free fishing tackle are a few ways we can help.