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Trumpeter Swan

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The trumpeter swan is the heaviest of flying birds and is one of two types of swans native to North America.

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Single trumpeter swan flying at Shadow Lake

The trumpeter swan is a large waterfowl native to North America distringuised by its black face and white plumage.

Trumpeter Swan Facts

SCientific Name

Cygnus buccinator

Distinguishing Features


The trumpeter swan is the heaviest flying bird. A male trumpeter swan can reach up to 30lbs and up to 5.5 inches in length 1.

Plumage and Appearance

One can tell that its a swan and not a snow goose, for one thing, by its black head.

There are two other types of swans you’ll find in the United States — the tundra swan and the mute swan.

The mute swan is non-native and was imported here as a decorative accent. Unlike the trumpeter swan, the mute swan has a yellow bill with black above.

This is a photo of a mute swan that I snapped with my phone when I was walking around near the Avon river in Amesbury U.K. Note the orange bill, smaller size, and different neck curve than the trumpeter swan.

It’s a bit harder to tell the trumpeter and tundra swans apart. If you can get a close enough view, look for a bit of orange at the edge of the bill. This is a sign that it is a trumpeter swan and not a tundra swan.

Sorry about the image quality here. But this clearly shows the orange at the edge of the bill, indicating a trumpeter swan vs. a tundra swan. However, in my opinion, it is sometimes difficult to see this distinguishing feature.

The trumpeter swan also has a black connection with the eye and a flatter crown than the tundra swan.

The call of the trumpeter swan is fairly loud — the video below does not do it justice 2

Distribution and Migration

The trumpeter swan ranges from Alaska, British Columbia and into the northern United States. Birds from icy Alaska and northern B.C. migrate south for the winter, down to southern B.C. and the Pacific Northwest. Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming host wintering birds from the Canadian interior. 3

Source: IUCN Red List Trumpeter Swan. Assessment in 2020.
Find Nearby Share Location Get Directions

Above is our own map with some known PNW trumpeter swan sightings. Some are more precise than other and, as the map is open to visitor-submitted markers, some may be locations submitted by visitors.

Add a Map Marker

Endangered Status

As of 2022, the trumpeter swan is listed as of being “of least concern.”

However, this was not always the case. By the early 20th century, there were thought to be fewer than 70 wild trumpeter swans living in Yellowstone National Park, until a large group was found in Alaska during an aerial survey in the 1950s. 4

Since then, restoration efforts have been made in many states and the trumpeter swan is no longer on the endangered list.

Trumpeter Swan Photos

These are any trumpeter swan photos we’ve added to the website that we’ve remembered to tag as such.

Other Resources

Our post about trumpeter swans

A short post we wrote about some places to look for the swans in western Washington State.

Wikipedia Page on Trumpeter Swans

eBird Page on Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swan Society

This is a society devoted to restoration and management specifically of trumpeter swan populations.

Trumpeter Swans Rebound, With an Assist from Global Warning

This is an interesting 2012 article from Scientific American on the return of trumpeter swan populations.

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trumpeter_swan#cite_note-10[]
  2. I could hear the group of them and knew I was in the right place before I even reached the lake.[]
  3. Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds[]
  4. Source: Wikipedia[]
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