MAMMOTH SPRING -- Mammoth Spring State Park received a special Christmas present in the form of a pair of trumpeter swans Christmas Eve.
Assistant Park Superintendent Glynda Pryor said this is as far south as she has ever known any swan of this type to come.
"We (park officials) are excited to have this pair of swans on the Spring Lake," she said. Pryor said she believes the pair is a female and a male. She said the female has a red band, or collar, around its neck with tracking numbers. The female, or pen, was tracked to Iowa where it was hatched in 2000. It was released by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2001.
Pryor said she hopes the pair has migrated to the park and will return every year. She said fowl like swans migrate south when the weather in the north turns cold. "This would be a perfect place for them to come in the winter because the water temperature on Spring Lake stays at a constant 58 degrees and there is always plenty of food," Pryor said.
She said three species of swans call North America home. The native trumpeter, tundra (formerly known as whistling swan) and the non-native mute swan. The trumpeter swan is the largest waterfowl in North America and the largest swan in the world. Pryor said this type of swan has snowy white feathers, a jet black bill and an 8-foot wing span. The swans may grow to be as large as 30 pounds.
Pryor said the trumpeter swan's breeding range extends from the Bering Sea east through almost all of Canada and south through Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"In the early 1900s the trumpeter swan was hunted to near extinction for its skin, feathers, meat and eggs. Passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave protection to the swans and other birds and helped stop illegal killing of the birds," the assistant park superintendent said. She said in 1932 fewer than 70 trumpeter swans were known worldwide. "They were located near Yellowstone National Park. This led to the establishment of the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935. Over the years the refuge flock served as an important source of breeding birds for reintroduction efforts in other parts of the country, primarily on other national wildlife refuges in the midwest.
"The trumpeter swan establishes life-long mates at approximately three years of age and nest the following year. The male trumpeters are called cobs and their young are called cygnats," Pryor said.
Six trumpeter swans were sighted Dec. 14 at Box Hound Marina near the shoreline at Crown Lake in Horseshoe Bend, Ark. It is not known if they were some of the same birds.