KANSAS CITY Mo -- A majestic white bird – bunches of them -- may be on the water or wing for Eagle Days this weekend (Dec. 4-5) at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge staff on Monday counted 96 trumpeter swans making a migration stopover at the marshes, said Ron Bell, refuge manager. A few decades ago the swans, a species recovering from near extinction, were seen infrequently at the refuge. But the trumpeter population increased in recent years thanks to conservation and swan recovery programs.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bell said, adding that it’s one of the largest trumpeter tallies he’s seen in 23 years at the refuge. “They’re just everywhere.”
They will add bird watching variety when the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service host the 32nd annual Eagle Days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The activities will include captive eagle programs and observation stations along a driving tour for spotting eagles at refuge marshes.
Unless they head south, trumpeter swans will be among the bald eagles and thousands of ducks and geese present for viewing and photography. Most of the swans are congregated in the Pintail Pool on the west side of the refuge driving tour road, Bell said.
Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America with seven-foot wing spans, snow white plumage, black bills and a graceful elongated neck. They are the largest swans in the world.
Habitat destruction and market hunting dropped their numbers to fewer than 70 in the Lower 48 states by the early 1930s, with those birds concentrated at a location near Yellowstone National Park. Another population was later discovered in Alaska.
Today, there are only about 16,000 trumpeter swans in North America, and 13,000 of those are in Alaska, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The remainder nest during spring and summer in Canada, the upper West and the upper Midwest.
For information about trumpeter swan history and ecology in Missouri, go to the MDC web site at: http://xplor.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/trumpeter-swan.
The refuge, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is about 30 miles north of St. Joseph and reached off of Interstate 29 via Missouri 159.
For more information about Eagle Days, contact Squaw Creek at 660-442-3187, or the Missouri Department of Conservation at 816-271-3100.