(Text as published in the Arkansas Outdoors Weekly Newsletter, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is asking the public to help with a project by reporting trumpeter swans “summering” in Arkansas.
As part of the Mississippi Flyway Council’s Trumpeter Swan Migration Experiment, 49 trumpeter swans were released in Arkansas during the winters of 2008, 2009 and 2010. This experiment attempts to re-establish historic swan winter migrations south into Arkansas and other southern states from the swans breeding areas in northern states.
Karen Rowe, the AGFC’s Bird Conservation Coordinator, said she is pleased that the majority of the released swans have returned north during the breeding season and many of them have returned to winter in Arkansas. “We have found that a number of our released swans have stayed in Arkansas during the summer and we want to identify and track these birds. We are interested in gathering information on these “summering” swans in order to evaluate the progress of this experiment and track the habitat preferences of these birds,” she explained.
AGFC is asking the public to report sightings of summer swans and when possible, include the collar color and alpha-numeric code on the swan collars. Each of the translocated swans is fitted with a neck collar that bears a unique letter-number code. Rowe says binoculars or a spotting scope are often needed to read the neck collar identification code. “Reports that contain the collar letter and number are extremely valuable because they enable us to track a particular swan, not just across Arkansas, but throughout its journey up and down the Mississippi Flyway. We really appreciate the observers’ efforts to obtain these important but difficult to read neck collar I.Ds.”
Observers should note the exact location of the swan, using a GPS when possible, and report the location, the collar color and alpha numeric code to Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the link to the AGFC survey form at http://www.agfc.com/species/Pages/TrumpeterSwanRestoration.aspx. Observers without internet access can report their sightings by calling toll free 877-873-4651.
Before European settlement, the breeding range for trumpeter swans encompassed over half of North America, including the northern portion of Arkansas. Commercial harvest of the birds for feathers, skins and meat extirpated trumpeter swans from almost all of North America by the late 1800s.
Reintroduction efforts have restored trumpeter swans to portions of their former breeding range. Today, approximately 5,000 trumpeter swans live in the Midwest area of the United States. Trumpeter swans may form pair bonds as early as their second summer, but typically do not breed until they are 4-7 years old. Trumpeters migrate in family groups and prefer to feed on aquatic vegetation.
Trumpeter swans are the largest birds native to North America. Adult males measure 57 to 64 inches long and weigh around 25 pounds. Adult females range from 55 to 60 inches and weigh approximately 20 pounds. Their wingspans can approach 8 feet, and they fly with their extremely long necks outstretched.