• Trumpeter Swan

    Common NameTrumpeter Swan
    Scientific NameCygnus buccinator
    Type of ReportRare Species
    Date of Observation03/18/2018
    Number Observed1
    Reporting Observer's NameJames Osborn
    Mailing AddressO-2 Grandview Drive
    South Burlington, VT 05403
    United States
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    EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
    Date Completed03/19/2018
    Names & Emails of Other Contributing Observers

    No one else contributed to this report form. However, photos were taken of this bird by Jim Mead and Rich Kelley during the time frame of this report. These photos are included in their eBird Checklists for Charcoal Creek on March 18, 2018.

    Latitude of Observation0
    Longitude of Observation0
    Place NameMissisquoi NWR - Charcoal Creek
    Vermont eBird Checklist URLebird.org
    Time of Day03:47 PM
    Length of Time Observed2 hours and 38 minutes
    Maximum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)200
    Minimum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)275
    Noteworthy Weather Conditions

    Bright Sunshine which “lit up” the bird. Northwest wind around 7 MPH.

    Optical Equipment Used for Observation

    Zeiss Binoculars 8x42
    KOWA Telescope 20X60 ZOOM

    Observer’s Previous Acquaintance With This or Similar Species

    I have extensive experience with this species having spent 70 days at Montezuma NWR in Western New York over the past 3 years. This species breeds at Montezuma and I am familiar with it in “all phases” of its lifecycle.

    I certify that that attachments included with this report were captured during this observation event​​.
    Description of Habitat

    Charcoal Creek and the Cabot/Clark Marsh are part of the Missisquoi NWR System. Cabot/Clark Marsh has a rice pattie which the waterfowl really like. The Swan was feeding in this area with Canada Geese and several species of ducks (Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, American Black Duck, and Mallard).

    Behaviors Observed

    The Trumpeter Swan was “swimming” amongst the Canada Geese with its head under water foraging for food for most of the time that I was there. On occasion it would stop for a moment or two and “stretch” its wings out. This behavior was captured on film by Jim Mead (photos in his eBird report). The bird was very deliberate as it moved around. It basically ignored the thousands of Canada Geese around it.

    Description of Vocalizations

    None Heard.

    Verbal Narrative & Description of Observation

    I arrived at Charcoal Creek at 3:45 PM and immediately scanned the thousands of Canada Geese looking for anything unusual. At 3:47 PM I found a very large Swan “sleeping” on the edge of the ice in the channel in Cabot/Clark Marsh. At first I thought that it had to be either a Mute Swan or a Trumpeter Swan. The reason for this was its SIZE. The bird made the Canada Geese look tiny. I waited patiently for the bird to raise its head. Finally, one of the Adult Bald Eagles came in close enough to bother the geese. All the geese and the Swan along the channel raised their heads. The bill on the Swan was long and massive. That eliminated Mute Swan. Through my binoculars I could see that the bird had a V-shape at the base of the bill where it meets the forehead. It also apparently had NO YELLOW in the lores. That helped me with my ID. I stopped watching it for a moment and made a few phone calls. Jim Mead came all the way up from Williston (VT) to help me out. I didn’t have a telescope or any type of camera equipment with me. When Jim arrived he took a close look at the bird and then photographed it. He confirmed the V-shape at the base of the bill where it meets the forehead and that there was NO YELLOW in the lores. He also added that the lores were the same width as the eye. With the size of this bird and these other field marks we both were satisfied with the identification - Adult Trumpeter Swan. We watched it calmly move about through the geese until we left the area at 6:25 PM.

    Relative Size & Shape

    Very large Swan. Heavy-looking bird. Angular head and neck. Pronounced bill. Stately posture when not swimming. Very large wing-span. Significantly larger bird than the Canada Geese with which it was associating.


    The crown was off-white due to iron stains. The cheeks were white as was the throat and nape. I couldn’t really see the eye color. It does show in the photos though. I also didn’t see the red gape. This too shows in the photos taken of the bird.

    Feet & Bill

    I only got a quick glimpse of its feet when it moved over a mound in the Marsh area. They appeared to be black.

    The bill was very large. It has a distinctive V-shape where it meets the forehead. It appeared to envelop the eyes. They didn’t look separated from it like they do on a Tundra Swan.

    Upper Back

    Pure white.

    Lower Back & Rump

    Pure white.


    Pure white. Massive wing-span. No markings of any kind. Very well captured in Jim Mead’s photos in his eBird report.

    Breast, Belly, Flanks, Under Tail Coverts

    The breast was pure white as were the flanks and what I could see of the under tail coverts.


    Fairly short. Pure white with no markings.

    IMPORTANT: What similar species were eliminated when making the identification and how was this bird different?

    Tundra Swan - Eliminated by SIZE, head and neck shape (rounded), NO Yellow on the bill, and overall POSTURE. The Tundra Swan is relatively small (for a Swan). This bird was massive in size. Also, the eyes on a Tundra Swan look somewhat disconnected from the bill. This bird definitely had the V-shape running right into the eyes.

    Other Notes & Comments

    Adult status given to this bird due to plumage and coloration. Sex not determined.

    This report was written from notes taken:During the Observation

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