Hatched in the City, Taking Flight in the Wild
In each of the past few years we have proudly announced the transfer of trumpeter swans hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo to the wilds of Iowa. We won’t be making such an announcement this year, and that’s a good thing.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports that wild trumpeter swans—once decimated in their native wetlands due to hunting and habitat loss—have returned to a sustainable level thanks to contributions of zoo-hatched birds.
There are currently 42 nesting pairs in the wild in Iowa, near the level at which researchers consider these swans a self-sustaining population.
Wild nesting pairs are regularly producing cygnets, which have matured, fledged, paired up and started their own broods. These birds are joining migration routes that their ancestors traveled and mentoring youngsters on winged trips to warmer climates when winter approaches. Trumpeter swans in this program have been documented in 17 states and Canada.
I am proud to report that 37 trumpeter swans hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo have been released to the wild. This endangered species’ return in Iowa is encouraging—a success story that highlights just one component of our global conservation efforts.
Zoo visitors may notice “dummy” eggs placed in the trumpeter swans’ nest at the Hope B. McCormick Swan Pond. These fakes will allow the parents to complete their natural nesting cycle for the year and help them maintain their parenting skills for future eggs.
So there will be no trumpeter swan cygnets paddling around the pond this summer, but in an odd way that’s a sign of hope, for the absence of young birds here in Chicago signals a thriving population in the wild.
As always, I’ll keep you posted.