Plants and Animals

Cygnus buccinator Trumpeter swan

species photo
Ryan P. O'Connor

Key Characteristics

Trumpeter swans are the largest swan in North America. They are best distinguished from Tundra swans by their lower pitched nasal honking and their bill, defined by a straight edge at the gape and pointed border between the eyes. They have been reintroduced at a number of places throughout the state.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S3 - Vulnerable


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 4 2022
Barry 1 2017
Benzie 1 2019
Calhoun 1 2019
Delta 2 2010
Grand Traverse 2 2010
Houghton 1 2019
Iosco 3 2019
Iron 1 2019
Kalamazoo 1 2018
Kalkaska 1 2019
Lake 1 2020
Leelanau 1 2019
Lenawee 1 2019
Livingston 1 2017
Manistee 3 2020
Mason 1 2020
Montcalm 1 2003
Newaygo 3 2019
Ogemaw 3 2022
Oscoda 4 2014
Roscommon 2 2022
Schoolcraft 1 2019
Washtenaw 4 2022
Wexford 3 2020

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Trumpeter swans use a variety of wetland types such as marshes, ponds, and lakes with nests frequently placed on muskrat houses.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Nesting areas should be buffered by a no-activity zone to eliminate human disturbance by boats, personal watercraft, and birdwatchers. Wetland management that maintains large open water areas required for takeoff and landing as well as the lush emergent and submergent vegetation for cover and food should benefit Trumpeter swans. Competition from the Mute swan, a non-native aggressive species, may need to be reduced, eliminated, or controlled. Migratory stopover and wintering areas should be protected once identified.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of March to third week of April

Migration from third week of October to first week of December

Nesting from fourth week of April to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

Scan suitable habitat for this bird from foot or boat but be sure to verify the identity. Surveys may also be conducted from aircraft to allow a better view of areas where the incubating adult may be concealed in the vegetation but care should be taken to avoid causing abandonment while allowing close enough inspection to verify that the bird is a Trumpeter and not a Mute swan.

Visual surveys

Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of June

Time of Day: Daytime


Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf, Toronto. 544pp.