Great Rivers Trumpeter Watch

Brian Hartwig

Trumpeter Swans and Riverlands
Trumpeter Swans were nearly extirpated in the early 1900s due to hunting pressures, but over the past few decades populations have started to increase thanks to recovery efforts by many people and agencies. Missouri observers have recorded the highest number of Trumpeter Swans wintering in states south of the 40th parallel with sightings in 45 of 115 counties. Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (RMBS) along the Mississippi River in St. Charles County, is the single most important wintering site of the southern states with counts of 500+ in the past few years.

Citizen Science Monitoring Project
Starting in November 2011, The Trumpeter Swan Society partnered with The Audubon Center at RiverlandsU.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rivers Project OfficeSt. Louis Audubon Society, and the Audubon Society of Missouri to begin a citizen science monitoring program for Trumpeter Swans in the Great Rivers region. During our second year of monitoring, the project has gathered bi-monthly data on overwintering swans in the Great Rivers Confluence from November 13, 2011 to February 19, 2013. Monitoring is essential to the recovery of the largest waterfowl species in North America because it provides crucial data on how many Trumpeter Swans use our area in the winter, the age composition of flocks, and where some of these individuals travel each year. Over a number of years this data will also be valuable to land managers, because it can help them better understand the habitat conditions that are important to the Trumpeter Swans overwintering here. If you are interested in helping out with this project please contact us at lrichter @

2012/2013 Monitoring Results

The Audubon Center at Riverlands would like to thank all the dedicated citizen scientists for another successful season of monitoring Trumpeter Swans. Your help allowed us to monitor Trumpeter Swans as they arrived in the Great Rivers Confluence area as well as the departure for many of the swans. We were able to expand our coverage to several new locations on the Illinois side of the river, and by identifying marked swans at several locations we know that several of our Swans have moved between Edwardsville, Riverlands, and Creve Coeur as temperatures and conditions fluctuated this winter.  Many of the swans arrived in the Great Rivers Confluence in mid-December while others like 57Y and 54Y arrived  in early November and were seen at one of our monitoring locations until the beginning of February.

This year 22 participants recorded observations on 1773 Trumpeter Swans (~300 more swans than last year) over 8 monitoring periods. Our high counts for the area occurred between mid-December and mid-January which is similar to last year, and the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary had over half the observations with 940 Trumpeters.  The majority of Trumpeter Swans were observed in wetlands with plants (610), followed by crop fields (441), open water (236), and wetlands without plants (160). When Trumpeter Swans were observed with other waterfowl they were seen with Mallards (13 times), Canada Geese (12 times), Greater White-fronted Geese (4 times), Snow Geese (3 times), Northern Shovelers (3 times), and an assortment of other dabblers or divers (9 occasions).

Please see the PDF available at the end of this report for a more thorough summary of this winter's monitoring efforts, including the final numbers from Missouri for The Trumpeter Swan Society's nationwide count.  For comparison, we have also included numbers from the 2011/2012 monitoring season for number and flock composition, species associations, primary activity, and habitat associations.

This monitoring season the volunteers contributed 235 hours to help us better understand Trumpeter Swans in our area! Thanks to all they do to help birds, and the habitats they depend on. 

The Trumpeter Swan Society
Check out the great work that The Trumpeter Swan Society has been involved with since the late 1960s, and learn what you can do if you see a Trumpeter Swan that has a neck collar or leg banded. Birds and other wildlife species may be marked or banded by conservation agencies to learn more about dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival, reproductive success, and population growth. The data collected by citizens and biologists can provide valuable data for wildlife management, and lead to the better understanding of a particular wildlife species. The USGS Bird Banding Lab has a simple form to fill out if a banded or marked bird is sighted.  

If you are interested in submitting Trumpeter Swan observations, please use the form attached below.