Young swans are known as cygnets, a name derived from the swan genus Cygnus. These two were seen in a pond next to the Paul Bunyan trail in north-central Minnesota, their parents stayed at a distance.
Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) are now fairly common in our area. However, in the 1930’s they were thought to be near extinction, with less than 70 known to exist. Fortunately, in the 1950’s a population of trumpeter swans was discovered in the Copper River Basin of Alaska. These Alaskan swans were key to restoration efforts, which have been quite successful. The Minnesota DNR estimates that there are now over 30,000 swans in the state.
Swans are the heaviest flying bird in North America. This may be why they tend to not migrate far south in the winter. A favorite spot for trumpeter swans to spend the winter is in the Mississippi River near Monticello, MN. Warm water discharged from the Monticello nuclear power plant keeps a stretch of the Mississippi ice-free. A few swans discovered this spot in the late 1980’s. Today an estimated 2000 swans over-winter near Monticello, where they have become an attraction for winter visitors. In winter a real-time view of the swans is available using the “swan cam” maintained by Monticello.