There’s no denying it: wetlands play a critical role in providing habitats for a variety of life. Studies have found that over 900 species require wetlands, with 64% of all endangered and threatened animal species needing access to them during some point in their life. In Canada, approximately 45 of the 95 species classified as threatened or endangered require wetlands as critically important habitat. Given their importance, it is beneficial to know about some of the species that use them most. Today, that species is the Trumpeter Swan.
The Trumpeter Swan has long been one of those mystical creatures to children. Large in size (reaching up to 180 centimetres/70 inches in length or more) with a mystical white coat, I recall being mesmerized by them in my early years – they just seem to carry much more glamour than a Canada Goose.
Their impressive size goes beyond their length: they are also the heaviest bird native to North America. Adults can weigh up to 13.6 kg (30 lb.), while their 185-250 cm wingspan supports that mass in-flight. Given their size, you’d expect some posture issues. Not the case, it seems! Trumpeter Swans have an upright posture and straight neck at all times, boasting a posture that some of us would love to have.
Now that you may be as fascinated by them as I am, you may wish to know where you can find them. Their breeding habitat is pristine wetlands, large ponds, and undisturbed lakes. Natural populations migrate to and from the Pacific coast, and given their “Least Concern” conservation status, you shouldn’t have trouble spotting one. If you do spot some, however, make sure you don’t feed them! Their diet consists almost entirely of aquatic plants; in winter, they may eat various terrestrial grasses. The diet of the young is supplemented for the first few months with insects, small fish and crustaceans before transitioning to a vegetarian diet. Either way, they aren’t meant to eat processed human food (put away that popcorn!).
Now that you know a little bit more about a species that relies heavily on wetlands, why not use that as an excuse to get outside and try to spot some? Trumpeter Swans spend winter on the Pacific coast, so go brave the gloomy weather and try to see one of those mystical white coats!