Arkansas Swans Prepare to Migrate North

Trumpeter Swans When to Depart Arkansas?

In the winter of 1990 wild Trumpeter Swans returned to Arkansas on their own after an absence from the state for over 100 years. Three mottled-gray juvenile birds spent several months on a 30-acre oxbow off the Little Red River east of Heber Springs, about 50 miles north of Little Rock in Cleburne County. The next year a banded, mated pair from Minnesota joined them and the following winter the pair returned with three cygnets. By 2005 the flock had grown to 88 birds, and this winter the flock tally was at least 125. While most of the birds are unmarked, banded birds from Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have been observed.

One of TTSS’ goals is to encourage southward migration of Trumpeter Swans under the approval of the Mississippi Flyway Council. Trumpeter Swan nesting has been successfully re-established in the Midwest, but limited fall migration has been a major concern. Success of Lake Magness swans suggested that Arkansas holds opportunities for swans to winter south of the 40th parallel.

This month, The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS), Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and have again teamed up to expand the winter range of Midwest Trumpeter Swans. In January 2008, a group of 9-month old free-flying trumpeters captured in Iowa was transferred to Arkansas. Fifteen more cygnets are being released this week. We hope that young swans will imprint on the National Park Service’s Boxley Valley of the Buffalo River and at Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, but move north in spring on their own establishing a migratory tradition – a process called reverse migration imprinting.

Depending on winter conditions, the birds may begin to move north in the next few weeks, and will likely be on the wing by early March. Please report Arkansas and surrounding state sightings of Trumpeter Swans so we can track their progress. A survey form and further detail can be found on the Trumpeter Swan Society website at

Photo contributed by Mark Wetzel.  We welcome your shared photos of Trumpeter Swans!  Just send an email or link to us through our website.

Trumpeter Swans – When to Depart Arkansas?

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3 Responses to “Arkansas Swans Prepare to Migrate North”

  1. Joe Mosby Says:

    Just a little update on the Arkansas trumpeters in Boxley Valley. Three swans released in January 2008 stayed at the site, escept for a two-week jaunt, until a few days before another release was scheduled on Feb. 18. The three moved about 20 miles to the east to a small pond. After four new swans from Iowa were released at the Boxley mill pond, the three wanderers returned to the mill pond to find new occupants.

  2. Robert V. Pitt Says:

    I am very amature with birding. I believe that today, I witnessed and photographed Trumperter Swans near Holy Innocents Cemetery, Lake Chicot, AR. I did hear one of the birds make a very distinct sound, which I believe is only produced by this swan. Todays date is Nov. 27, 2009. Could what I believe, be possible? Thank You, Robert V. Pitt

  3. Debbie Trammell Says:

    I saw the Trumpeter Swans on Lake Magness in Heber Springs over the Chrismas holidays. It was an amazing sight! Lake Magness is on private land and fortunately the family that owns the land appreciates the swans and is helping protect them. They have provided a wonderful place to view the Swans on their land. It’s worth the trip!!

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