Honk if you love a good-news story! Trumpeter swans are the big birds that came back. In the early 1930s, they were nearly extinct in Canada (mostly because of over-hunting). Happily, thanks in part to reintroduction programs, trumpeters—the largest swan species in the world—have a healthy North American population again.
Hefty trumpeters are our hardiest swan species. Along with decent bulk—a male, a.k.a., cob, weighs at least 25 lbs—the swans have a thick layer of down to insulate them from the cold. As long as they have access to open water, they can survive through the fall and winter without migrating. The downside to being such a hulk? Getting airborne ain’t easy. A trumpeter swan needs about 100 metres of lake runway to take flight.
Canada has only one other native swan species: the tundra swan. (Mute swans are invasive.) The easiest way to distinguish between a trumpeter and a tundra is to listen when they make noise. Trumpeters have a brassy, trumpet-like honk; a tundra’s cry is higher pitched and squawky.