Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)

trumpeter swan


  • Is a large bird, about 150 to 183 centimetres (five to six feet) in length from bill to tail.
  • Wingspan is about two and half metres (eight feet).


  • Has white plumage and all-white wings
  • The bill and feet are black.
  • Neck is unusually long and graceful, held with a kink at the base when standing or swimming.
  • Head and neck often have a rusty-orange stain as a result of feeding in iron-rich lakewater.


  • Voice is a bugle-like koh-hoh.
  • Historically, the trumpeter swan bred throughout Alberta but was near extinction by the early 1900s.
  • By the 1930s, a small population in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming was the only known breeding population.
  • Since 1944, the trumpeter swan has gradually increased in Alberta.
  • In 2000, surveys reported 995 swans in Alberta, 608 of which were found in the Grande Prairie area. Other small flocks have been found scattered across the province.
Natural History


  • Nests on shallow lakes and marshes, and excludes other swans from the water body.


  • Requires an abundance of aquatic plants, snails and insects for food.

When Active

  • Is active in Alberta from mid-April to mid-October.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Initial pair bonding occurs from late March to mid-May. Pair bonds for this species are life-long.
  • After arriving in Alberta in Spring, the trumpeter swan selects a lake or pond to build a nest. Breeding density is generally one pair per lake or pond.
  • Nests are used for many years, and take several days to two weeks to build.
  • Clutches of three to nine eggs are laid. The female performs most of the incubation duties while the male provides food and defence for the breeding area.

Growth Process

  • Growth of cygnets is rapid, and by 13-15 weeks, most young, or cygnets, have had their first flight.
Conservation and Management


The trumpeter swan is classified as At Risk in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

For more information on this species, and the assessment and listing process, see the Status of theTrumpeter Swan in Alberta report at:

Until recently, this bird species was also listed as Threatened under the Wildlife Act. In early 2014 it was identified as a Species of Special Concern, which resulted in it being downlisted to a non-game species under the act. The downlisting was a result of ongoing increases in population size in Alberta over the last 25 years, which are due to active management of the trumpeter swan’s provincial breeding habitat. For more information on this species and the assessment and listing process, see:


Are there trumpeter swans on your property? Learn more about the species and what you can do to assist in their conservation.


  • One of the greatest limiting factors facing the trumpeter swan is a critical shortage of wintering habitat. Existing winter habitat is overcrowded by trumpeter swans and other swan species, and leads to potential losses due to:
    • Habitat alteration
    • High competition for food
    • Increased exposure to disease and parasites
    • Severe weather conditions
  • Further sources of swan mortality may include:
    • Accidental shooting
    • Electrocution from collisions with power lines
    • Lead poisoning
    • Predation
  • When exposed to repeated disturbances, including loud traffic, boats, floatplanes, pedestrians, and human intrusion on a breeding lake, the trumpeter swan will not nest or it will abandon nests and young.

Current management

As a Non-game wildlife species, the trumpeter swan is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and it is illegal to kill or harass individuals or disturb their nests at any time of the year. This species has been the subject of recovery planning and implementation in Alberta. See:

Similar Species
  • Tundra Swan
    • The trumpeter is easily confused with the similar-looking, though smaller, tundra swan. However, trumpeter swans often have a red line along the upper edge of their lower jaw, whereas tundra swans do not.
    • Unlike the trumpeter swan, most tundra swans have a yellow patch in front of their eye, and their eyes do not appear to blend into the black base of their bill, but appear separate.


Page Information

Updated: Aug 30, 2018