Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist 49:26–27; 2017


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) is North America’s largest waterfowl species and breeds in wetland habitats across the northern United States, Alaska and Canada. Summer observations by ornithologists, including those of John James Audubon in 1843, indicated a substantial number of trumpeter swans were breeding in North Dakota prior to European settlement. However, the species was extirpated by the late 1800s and there were no subsequent breeding records for over a century (Stewart 1975). Since 2007, 5 recent nesting records indicate that trumpeter swan has returned as a regular breeding species in North Dakota.

A continental range-wide breeding trumpeter swan survey conducted every 5 years since 1968 has shown that the population across North America has increased at an annual growth rate of 6.2%, from an estimated 3,722 birds in 1968 to 46,225 in 2010 (Groves 2012). From 2005 to 2015, the population of swans in the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways has increased from 4,647 to 27,053 in 2015 (Groves 2012). The High Plains sub-unit of the Interior population (which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) increased from 471 birds in 2005 to 573 birds in 2010 (Groves 2012). However, breeding trumpeter swans were not recorded in North Dakota.