Trumpeter swans are uncommon Kansas visitors during winter months. When they appear here, it’s usually in small family groups numbering four or less. Tundra swans, look-a-likes that can often be distinguished by their yellow “lores” or spots at the base of the bill, are more typically seen in modest numbers during a Kansas winter. I’ve spotted up to 13 tundra swans together in our state.
But this winter, reports of more than 40 trumpeters in a flock have come from the Rossville area. I was in that vicinity for the past several days, and though I spot-checked the area morning and evening, I wasn’t lucky enough to see the large gathering observed a few days earlier. Instead, I finally saw a pair of the majestic birds feeding in a cornfield where the larger group had been.
About 100 miles northeast, more than 200 trumpeter swans have wintered at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, MO, during this mild winter. The numbers have fluctuated from 150-250 swans since January 1, and the large Kansas group is no doubt part of that larger group.
Keep an eye out in northeastern Kansas for these giant white birds. Seeing several dozen swans in flight is truly spectacular.