By CVC’s Meagan Ruffini, Marketing and Communications Associate
It’s a warm spring day and the sun is shining as you watch the Credit River flow peacefully downstream. Along comes a bank of swans gliding effortlessly through the water. There’s something about their noble elegance that strikes your curiosity…
If you’ve experienced this- here’s what you need to know about the beautiful swans that live in our own backyard.
You’ve likely noticed the swans look different. In fact, there are three swan species – Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan and Tundra Swan. You can see Mute and Trumpeter Swans all year long. The Tundra Swan is only seen here during spring and fall migration. Unlike the Mute and Trumpeter swans that breed locally, Tundra Swans breed in the Arctic. Trumpeter Swans and Tundra Swans are native, but you’ll see a lot more non-native Mute Swans, especially on the lakeshore.
Trumpeter Swans typically have solid black bills, with the black markings extending to their eyes. The bill is usually straight, with a red “lipstick” marking where the upper and lower bills meet. As their name suggests, they’re a boisterous species! Thanks to a looping windpipe, they can honk and “sing.”
Tundra Swans usually have yellow markings below the eyes, with a scooped shape bill. They’re also known as “The Whistling Swan.”
Mute Swans are easily identified by their bright orange bill and a distinctive black knob on their forehead. Despite their name, Mute Swans are far from silent. Their courtship dance is paired with hissing and grunting sounds!
Why are Trumpeter Swans tagged?
Biologists tag Trumpeter swans to follow their progress, breeding patterns and degree of success in relearning their migratory routes.
The Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group shared the known history of our Trumpeter friend shown in the photo. P56 is male, hatched and raised in a pond in Whitchurch-Stoufville. His parents are K09 and 038. He now calls the Owen Sound area home and migrates each spring with a family of Trumpeter Swans to Port Credit Harbour.
The Trumpeter Swan research is building a database of Trumpeter Swan locations in the province. The goal is to understand migratory movements over the year – where are they in the summer and where do they go in the winter?
The need to track and protect the Trumpeter Swan comes from their remarkable history. These magnificent birds were extirpated from the province due to overhunting in the 1800’s.
Dedicated conservationists began efforts to bring them back in 1982.
Mute Swans were used as a “host” parents. Trumpeter Swan eggs were placed in Mute Swan nests and raised the young as their own. Today Trumpeter Swans raise their young without the help of Mute Swans. This is an amazing success story in species reintroduction. Trumpeter Swans are no longer a species at risk. In a time when many species are in decline and the list of species-at-risk continues to grow- this is something to celebrate!
When you see a tagged Trumpeter Swan, report the colour and alphabet/number combination to The Trumpeter Swan Society and learn more about the bird’s history.
Next time you’re at the river, stop to admire these special creatures. We came so close to losing our beloved Trumpeter Swans and we’re grateful they can still call the Credit home.