Spotting a majestic Trumpeter Swan, made famous in fairy tales and fictional children’s books, was once a common reality for Iowans. While seeing one in Iowa may seem like a work of fantasy, conservationists across the state have been working to help the Trumpeter Swan come back to Iowa.
At the time when Iowa became a state in 1846, Trumpeter Swans nested in lakes and wetlands across the state. As more settlers came into the state they began to drain wetlands and hunt these birds for their skin, meat and feathers. By the 1880s North America’s largest waterfowl became a rare sight in Iowa. According to the Iowa DNR, the last wild nesting Trumpeter Swan was observed in 1883 in the Twin Lakes Wildlife Area in Hancock County. Iowa would be without wild nesting swans for more than a century.
The Trumpeter Swan suffered from habitat loss and unregulated hunting across the country. In 1918 they received nationwide protection. By 1932 the Trumpeter population in the United States reached an all-time low of only 69, all within the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana. Thank goodness for the land conservationists who protected these wetlands and lakes long ago, otherwise you may only be able to find these beautiful birds in fiction.
This is where the comeback begins.
The journey to bring the Trumpeter Swans back started with Iowa’s wetland restoration efforts beginning in the 1980s. By 1993, the DNR had begun reintroducing the birds back to the state in 1993. In 1998, a pair of wild nesting Trumpeter Swans in Dubuque County hatched three cygnets. Finally, the 115 year drought was over. As of 2020, according to the Iowa DNR, more than 100 pairs of Trumpeter Swans now nest across Iowa.
The work, of course, goes on and some of the leading experts on Trumpeter Swans are coming to Indian Creek Nature Center on February 4th. At the Trumpeter Swan Soiree, experts from across the Midwest will be sharing how these creatures are being re-established, what work still needs to be done, and how others can help out. This family-friendly event will also have swan-themed crafts and activities for kids, plus the opportunity to visit a pair of live Trumpeter Swans on the Kirkwood Community College campus.
Join us at the Trumpeter Swan Soiree as we celebrate these beautiful creatures and discover what we can do to help them complete their comeback story.