Frequently Asked Questions

Photograph by Jess Lee

This is a work in progress! Our main office receives many e-mail inquiries, and often the questions are similar enough that we thought it best to put a few answers to frequently asked questions here. However, please feel free to e-mail your questions to us and we will do our best to answer them, or find someone else who might know the answer.

Are Trumpeter Swans an endangered species?

In the 1960's, when the Federal Endangered Species Act came into being, the Trumpeter Swan was considered for this list. At about the same time, a nesting population of about 2,000 Trumpeters was discovered in Alaska. The species was then taken off the consideration list. However, various states list the Trumpeter as either state-threatened or state-endangered.

What is a male swan called, a female swan?

A male swan is called a Cob. The female is called a Pen and the young of the year are called cygnets. While male Trumpeters (21-38 pounds) are generally larger, weigh more than female Trumpeters (20-25 pounds), visually distinguishing the sexes is not possible without internal examination of the vent area. However, an observer can tell the sex of each bird of a pair by watching their behavior. It is only the female that incubates the eggs while the male will swim close by to protect the nest from predators. In mating, the male mounts the female and grasps her neck with his bill.

What do Trumpeter Swans eat?

Adult swans eat aquatic vegetation, including the leaves, seeds, and roots of many types of pond weeds. In captivity, swans will eat corn and other grains provided. Wild swans have also adapted to field feeding, eating left over grains and vegetables that have been harvested by farmers.

How many eggs do Trumpeter Swans lay?

They lay, on the average, three to eight eggs. One egg is laid every other day until the clutch is complete. The Pen does not begin incubating until her clutch is complete so that all cygnets will hatch within 24 hours of each other. Only one clutch of eggs is laid per year. The incubation period is approximately 34 days. The swans build their nests out of stems and leaves from plants such as cattails and sedges. Trumpeters often nest on top of muskrat houses or beaver lodges.

Will Trumpeter Swans remove the geese from my lake or pond?

Only a mature, mated territorial nesting pair of Trumpeters will chase off (they might even kill) geese and other waterfowl in their nesting marsh. However, this aggressive behavior is usually only exhibited during the nesting season March through October. At other times of the year, the swans will readily flock with the geese. Young swans or two swans of the same sex will not be as aggressive and generally will readily tolerate geese and other waterfowl at any time of year.

Captive swans need open water year round and will need to be fed during the winter months which could attract waterfowl. Early in the season, a trained dog may be more effective to chase geese off the lawn. However, once the geese begin nesting, they are protected under Federal Migratory Bird law and may not be harrassed. In order to discourage geese ( and promote healthier wetlands), it is best to keep a good natural buffer around the pond, allow grass to grow long, and plant shrubs. Geese do not like to eat long grass! They love to eat freshly mowed grass. A fence barrier between your lawn and the lake should also discourage them. Geese prefer a clear runway to the pond and a clear view to spot potential predators. Finally, encourage your neighbors not to feed geese!