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Trumpeter swans return to St. Louis area

If you'd like to see them in person, plan a visit at dawn or sunset

ST. LOUIS — Trumpeter swans are back at the Audubon Center Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near the Alton Bridge.

According to Patricia Lueders, volunteer coordinator of the Great Rivers Trumpeter Swan Watch, more than 400 of the waterfowl were seen there this week.

They are called trumpeters because of their vocalization, which sounds like a trumpet. It's estimated that they live for 20 years.  

Lueders said the oldest swans at Riverlands are more than 15 years old. Volunteers have been counting and monitoring the birds' winter behavior for the Trumpeter Swan Society since 2012.  

They winter in Missouri from November until January when they return to Wisconsin to nest. Trumpeter swans are one of the heaviest birds capable of flight, many with an 8-foot wingspan.

Credit: Paul Moffett
Trumpeter swans take off from Heron Pond at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton.
Credit: Patricia Lueders
Trumpeter swans on the water at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, MO.

The birds roost at night in the marshes or the bay for safety reasons, then spend the day feeding in the surrounding agricultural fields.  

Credit: Patricia Lueders
Trumpeter swans spend the winter in Missouri, and their days in agricultural fields.

Lueders said they travel in family units. You can recognize the juveniles, called cygnets, by their gray color.  

If you're interested in seeing them for yourself, it's best to visit the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near the Alton Bridge at dawn or at sunset.  

For more birding fun, find out more about the Audubon Center's Bows for Birds Challenge underway now.

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