Getting Ready for Release

With the end of summer approaching (there’s a winter weather advisory in effect for much of Northwest Wyoming right now), it’s time to ready nine of this year’s cygnets for release into Yellowstone National Park. Like the majority of waterfowl, migration is a learned behavior for Trumpeter Swans. Young birds follow their parents to the wintering grounds in the fall and then return to the place where they learned to fly the following spring. The partnership uses this fact to identify lakes that are suitable for Trumpeter Swans, don’t have breeding pairs on them and are used by wild swans as staging areas during the fall. We place the young swans before they’ve learned to fly on these lakes or wetland habitats. The young swans interact with the wild birds, learn to fly and then follow them to their wintering grounds. Many of these wild swans are birds released in previous years that have survived fall migration, wintered outside the Park and returned to Yellowstone for the summer. With luck, our young birds will return to the area where they were released next spring. After four to five years the released birds will be mature and, with luck, ready to breed.

In preparation for releasing the cygnets, partnership biologists will be capturing this year’s young later this week. Each cygnet will undergo a health exam, be tested for disease, sexed, and banded with an aluminum U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service band on one leg and a yellow numbered band on the other leg. They will then be ready for release in mid-September. Please come back to this site for weekly updates.