Ontario group stalks trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans. Photo: Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group

Trumpeter swans return to Ontario.

The Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group (OTSRG) has been trying to restore the species in Ontario for over 30 years.

Early Jesuit missionaries recorded sightings of trumpeter swans in their journals. Due to overhunting in the 1800s, swans completely disappeared from the Province and it was the swan song of the species in Ontario.

In 1986, Harry Lumsden, an employee of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, began efforts to bring swans back to Ontario using eggs obtained from Wisconsin and Alaska. Through cooperation with volunteers and landowners, the OTSRG has released approximately 500 Trumpeter Swans into the wild across Ontario and through natural reproduction the population has grown to approximately 2,500 to 3,000.

“They find their own habitat,” said Susan Best of the OTSRG.

The organization wants people to report sightings of trumpeter swans in their communities. There are swans that have been tagged and banded by the OSTRG, but there are also some without tags and bands – meaning they are likely the offspring of birds with tags and bands. Each label and strip understand an identification number.

“These are really citizen scientists that we are looking for,” said Best.

All observations are recorded in a database. The entire project is run by volunteers and receives no funding from the Ministry of Natural Resources, but operates under wildlife management laws established by the province and the federal Canadian Wildlife Service.

In the easternmost region of Ontario, the OTSRG has neither banded nor tagged any swans. However, Best said that doesn’t mean there aren’t trumpeter swans around.

“We definitely have sightings in the eastern Ontario sections.”

Like all other birds, Trumpeter Swans do not see the borders of countries, states, and provinces. It is still possible to see them in the marshes on both sides of the St. Lawrence River. However, according to the New York State Bureau of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, trumpeter swans remain rare statewide. Their feathers were in great demand between the 1600s and 1800s for use in goose feathers.

Trumpeter swans have black beaks, unlike mute swans which have orange beaks. Mute swans are not really native to North America and is considered an invasive species.

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