Bird Tails

A Rare Bird Drops In

Village bird watchers had a rare treat!

Story and Photos by Vic Prislipsky

HSV Audubon received a call on February 17th that a swan had been sighted on Lake Sophia. A picture of the bird confirmed that it was a Trumpeter Swan. Even though it didn’t stay long, a Trumpeter was reported the next day at nearby Lake Maria. Shortly thereafter we received a picture of 3 swans on Lake Maria but it turned out that two of the birds were actually decorative swan decoys. A lake resident began feeding the swan noting that it seemed very used to people. Continued sightings of a Trumpeter Swan at Lake Maria have been confirmed through the 25th. There have been credible reports of a second swan but most of the confirmed sightings have counted only one. If the history of swan sightings in Arkansas is indicative, we would expect our Trumpeter(s) to move on at any time.

Trumpeter Swan - Photo by Vic Prislipsky

Trumpeter Swan - Photo by Vic Prislipsky

With one notable exception, Trumpeter Swans are found only in Alaska, western Canada and several limited areas in the U.S. northwest and upper midwest. The one exception is that in the early 1990s several presumably storm blown swans showed up at Magness Lake near Heber Springs, AR. The property owner began feeding them cracked corn and they have returned in increasing numbers every winter since. Between Magness and several other small lakes in that area there are now a couple of hundred Trumpeter Swans wintering in Arkansas from November until February.

Weighing up to 25 pounds with a wingspan of 6 feet makes these swans the largest flying bird in N. America. Trumpeters and their smaller relatives, Tundra Swans, are characterized by their long, graceful necks and snow-white color. (Note that the common “park swan” seen in zoos or some city parks are nonnative Mute Swans.) Trumpeters, as their name implies, do have a mesmerizing, trumpet-like call. The swans beautiful white feathers were almost the cause of their demise due to market hunting. Only intensive conservation efforts started in the lates 1900s saved them from the brink of extinction.

It’s doubtful that “our” bird will be here by the time you read this but who knows. The boat launch at Maria has been the reliable spot to see the swan but it pays to drive slowly so that you can look at the lake between the houses as you go to the launch. Don’t be fooled by the decorative swan decoys anchored near a covered dock on the far side of lake.

As always HSVBIRDS.ORG has a lot of information about everything you’d like to know about birds and some of Nature’s other wonders. HSV Audubon meets the 2nd Thursday of each month, except July and August, at 10:00 at the Coronado Center. Guests are always welcome.

Photos by Vic Prislipsky