It’s another February bonus post and since last time I featured cute and cuddly bunnies I feel less guilty featuring another bird for today’s post. Sorry to keep doing this to you but my brother is putting tremendous pressure on me with his progress on his birding life list gallery. Now that he is using technology like e-bird alerts I’m forced to work my fingers to the bones slaving away on posts just to stay ahead. Only thing going for me is most of the bird alerts required him to leave the car in the frigid temps of Chicago which translates to … no check mark hehehe. With bloodied fingers I type you today’s featured bird the Trumpeter Swan.
This is actually not a ‘new’ bird to the blog or technically an add to my Birding Life List Gallery. What is new, however, is the fact you can actually make out the features on these shots. The previous ones from Yellowstone were a long way off even with the Beast and tele pressed into service (link here). Now that you can actually experience them up close you can see just how majestic these Swans are. I laughed when processing the shot above in the digital darkroom – it seems a tad pissed off that we were disturbing his afternoon swim. I am getting the general opinion that most birds simply looked annoyed or goofy when viewed head on. See how much more pleasant this angle looks.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of these beautiful Swans.
This particular Swan always gives me fits when trying to ID them. They are very similar to the Tundra Swan. The best way I know how to tell them apart is to look at the thickness of the black coloring forward of the eye. Trumpeter has a thicker entry into the eye than the Tundra which is narrower.
Tundra’s also tend to have some yellowing forward of the eyes which gives it away pretty easy… that is when they have that – I’ve seen them without it as well so that isn’t a lock. The other way I tend to try to distinguish them is the how they hold their neck. Trumpeters tend to hold their necks more convex where their counterparts tend to go the direct up and down position with the head out like a sock puppet. As always, this isn’t a lock either seeing as how this one did that every once in awhile assuredly to make this ID as difficult as possible – devious birds!
Given all the reference checks, web searches etc. I’m sticking with the Trumpeter ID. Feel free to weigh in but help me understand your reasoning so I can improve my observations in the field. If only they had some form of a tell-tale feature like the Mute Swan’s bill knob – not the case.
This particular specimen was captured while out in Yellowstone. The worst thing about taking so long is trying to remember exactly where in the park these were taken. Since starting the life list I’ve made a point to be more definitive about the shooting locations – for now all I can get you to is a pond somewhere in the park. Some sleuthing on the pre and post pictures of the card may provide some hints but being away from my home computer prevents me from doing that.
How about some interesting facts to close the post out. Go back to my trusty friends at Cornell (sorry Wikipedia, but Cornell has done so much for the birding field I like to give them first dibs at recognition). First off the Trumpeter is the largest of the North American waterfowl coming in at nearly 80 inches in the wingspan and a whopping 271 to 448 oz. Having photographed the Mute Swan so many times (link here) this seemed like an invalid fact since the Mute is on that top end as well. A quick check on their states validated my quandary. The Mute checks in at 81 to 93 inch wingspans and tops out at 504 oz. The math doesn’t add up. The issue is likely in a technically – the Mute is actually a invading species brought over from Europe. It is also well known that the Mute is actually hated by many due to their aggressive behaviors to the point where there are efforts underway to terminate them from various locals (like the Great Lakes). Seems to me a little harsh but will save that commentary when featuring those Swans.
These lovely creatures tend to mate for life and were nearly hunted to extinction by the early 20th century thanks to their feathers being considered excellent sources of quill pens. I am glad to say they now have a Least Concern Conservation Status – thank god for Bic! Not much else to really say about these birds other than they are a beautiful bird to have the privilege to witness in the field. It probably goes without saying I’ll be updating my distant shots currently holding residence on the Bird Life List Gallery with these closer versions.
That’s a wrap – take it easy and see ya again real soon now (thanks to my brother of course hehehe)