BALTIMORE, Md. (WHTM) – Some good news on the conservation front. The Maryland Zoo has announced the hatching of two trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator). The cygnets, as swan hatchlings are called, incubated for more than 30 days in their nest located in the Farmyard at the Zoo.
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“This is the seventh clutch laid by our trumpeter swans. Over the past decade our swan parents, Scuttle and Buttercup, have played a very important role in the conservation of their species,” said Jen Kottyan, Curator of Birds at Maryland Zoo.
The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) was once on the brink of extinction after they were hunted for their skin, feathers, meat, and eggs. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave protection to trumpeter swans and other birds, but the population continued to decline.
By 1932 it was believed that there were less than 70 trumpeter swans remaining. In response, the U.S. government established Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Montana’s Centennial Valley to protect the remaining trumpeters in 1935.
Their numbers have slowly recovered; the current population is estimated at about 63,000 across the entire North American continent. But they still have only returned to about 1/3 of their original range.
The two cygnets will be raised by their parents, who help them develop skills to survive in the wild. Zoo personnel help with the babies – by doing as little as possible.
“Since the cygnets are part of a reintroduction program we are always very hands-off to keep them from imprinting with humans,” said Kottyan. “That gives them the best odds for survival in the wild once they are released.”
Once they are mature enough, Scuttle and Buttercup’s latest brood will be released into the wild.
“Many of their previous offspring were reintroduced to the wild as part of a trumpeter swan restoration program in Iowa. This year the cygnets will be sent to Oregon where they’ll be released by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.”
Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl species native to North America, as well as the largest swan in the world. They can weigh up to 30 pounds, and are known for their bright white feathers, black beaks, very large webbed feet, and a six-foot wingspan (which they really need because 30 pounds is a lot of bird to get airborne).
Visitors may see the swans in the lake in the Zoo’s Farmyard, and can learn more about the species at MarylandZoo.org.