By Sheryl Stanley
To birdwatchers and the general public, the white swan on Lake Luna is tall, elegant and serene. To conservation experts, it may or may not be “lost.” But having spent six months in Harrisonville already, it seems likely that this visitor will be spending the rest of the summer on Lake Luna.
The trumpeter swan, which appeared last January with another swan, was rounded up June 19 with the other water-fowl during the annual goose roundup.
After a visual exam by conservation personnel it was determined the bird was a female and in good health. She was fitted with a wide, red neck collar before being released back onto the lake.
“We put leg bands on the geese,” conservation agent Phil Needham explained, “but the red neck collars are more visible and can be used to identify swans without having to get close to them.”
Needham thinks the swan is a young bird, possibly born last year. “We don’t know why she didn’t fly on with the other swan this spring. Possibly, she was injured and couldn’t fly at that time or maybe she got separated from the other swan and didn’t realize she should leave.
“During our exam, we determined that she is flightless at this time, meaning she has lost all her primary feathers that allow her to fly. This is a natural process for birds, called moulting, and they should grow back during the coming months.
“She’ll probably join some other swans when they come back through this fall and fly off with them,” Needham said.
“The trumpeter swan is native to Missouri,” Needham said. “It’s the largest species of swan in the world and the largest waterfowl in the state. An adult can have an eight-foot wingspan and weigh 24 pounds.”
“They were once very common, but the numbers dropped real low in the early 1900s and hunting them was outlawed. During the last 10 to 20 years, they’ve made a comeback, but it’s still unusual to see them on this side of the state.”
Trumpeter swans usually breed in Minnesota or Canada, Needham said, and return to Missouri’s open waters for the winter. Swans mate once, for life, usually around the age of 3 or 4 years, and begin nesting and raising young when 5 or 6 years old.
Swans are protected from hunting in Missouri and anyone caught doing so could face heavy fines and jail time.