Trumpeter Swan #1
Photographing these majestic birds is always a treat for me. I remember one year in Yellowstone with Niala Branson there were areas closed off due to nesting and the low numbers of birds in the area.
The trumpeter swan is a species of swan found in North America. The heaviest living bird native to North America, it is also the largest extant species of waterfowl with a wingspan that may exceed 10 ft.
Widespread destruction and degradation of wetland areas also decreases the suitable habitat areas for the trumpeter swan.
In the early 1900s, the trumpeter was hunted nearly to extinction for its skin, feathers, meat, and eggs. Passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave protection to trumpeter swans and other birds and helped curb illegal killing.
In 1932, fewer than 70 trumpeters were known to exist worldwide, at a location near Yellowstone National Park. This led to the establishment of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935. Red Rock Lakes is located in Montana's Centennial Valley and is part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Nearly half of the known trumpeter swans in 1932 were found in this area. The area's system of hot springs provides year-round open waters where trumpeters, as well as other wildlife, find food and cover even in the coldest weather.
Over the years, the Red Rock Lakes refuge flock served as an important source of breeding birds for reintroduction efforts in other parts of the country, primarily on other national wildlife refuges in the Midwest.
In the early 1950s, a fairly large, previously unknown population of trumpeter swans was discovered in Alaska. Today, estimates show about 16,000 trumpeter swans reside in North America, including some 13,000 in Alaska, which winter on the Pacific Coast; more than 1,600 in Canada; about 500 in the Midwest; and more than 500 in the tri-state area of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana (including the Red Rock Lakes refuge flock).