Trumpeter swans set count record at northwest Missouri wildlife refuge

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Mound City, Mo. – The decades long effort by conservationists to save and boost trumpeter swans in the Midwest continues to show progress. A weekly waterfowl survey tallied 4,199 trumpeters on Jan. 4 using wetlands at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Holt County. Once almost extinct in the Lower 48 states, their numbers are being brought back thanks to wetland and migratory bird conservation efforts.

The 4,199 trumpeter swans counted on Jan. 4 was a new record count for Loess Bluffs, said William Kutosky, refuge manager for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The refuge’s staff surveys the waterfowl and eagle populations weekly during winter.

A hard freeze of the shallow-water wetlands could prompt the swans to seek open water elsewhere, said Frank Nelson, MDC wetland systems manager. That could increase the chances they will be spotted at other lakes or rivers with open water or in wetlands further south.

“Like many other waterfowl, if they’ve found adequate resources one year, they are more likely to come back,” Nelson said. “Over the years we’ve seen this success build as the numbers have increased.”

Trumpeter swans are a species of conservation concern in Missouri. They once nested in north Missouri. Biologists think that may occur again someday if their numbers keep growing. Trumpeter swans are North America’s heaviest flying bird and quite majestic.

“In the past, seeing these massive birds was a rarity and a special treat to see one or two,” Nelson said. “The fact that there were several thousand at Loess Bluffs is a nice success story.”

Learn more about trumpeter swans on MDC’s website at