Bringing with her the hopes for a new migrating population of rare trumpeter swans, a female trumpeter has made the 730-mile return journey from Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge to Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
Part of an experiment to establish a new migratory flock, the trumpeter was one of four swans that followed an ultra-light aircraft last winter from Canada to southern Indiana in an effort to teach the birds a migratory route between summer nesting grounds nd a new wintering area.
The trumpeters left Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in early February. The female made the return trip to Canada without the help of the ultra-light to lead the way.
Her arrival on May 5, 1999, back at the site where she and other trumpeters were trained to follow an ultra-light was confirmed by members of the Migratory Bird Research Group, the team of scientists who trained the birds.
"This is a very exciting step in the process of establishing a new migratory flock of trumpeters," said Muscatatuck Refuge Biologist Mike Oliver. "The fact that this trumpeter made it back to the training site in Canada means she, and possibly the other birds, learned the migratory route by following the ultra-light south last winter. Our hope is that some of the other Muscatatuck birds will also return, and ultimately, that one or more of them make the fall journey back to southern Indiana to spend the winter."
Efforts by the Migratory Bird Research Group to reestablish such a population began in the summer of 1998. Migratory Bird Research Group biologist Wayne Bezner-Kerr and his colleagues experimented with various techniques to raise young trumpeters and teach them to follow an ultra-light aircraft. After months of practice, a group of young swans departed their training grounds in southern Ontario in early December and followed Bezner-Kerr, who piloted the ultra-light.
The group of four trumpeters flew with the ultra-light along a route through Michigan, Ohio, and into Indiana. They reached their final stop, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, near Seymour, Indiana, on December 23, 1998.
The trumpeters then wintered at the refuge, while refuge staff kept a close eye on them.
"Since the time the swans left the refuge in February, we had no confirmation of the trumpeters^ location until the female was reported May 5," said Oliver. "We hope the remaining swans will be accounted for soon."
Trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl in North America, once existed throughout much of the northern United States and wintered as far south as southern Indiana and Illinois. However, unregulated killing and loss of habitat caused populations to dwindle. Before last winter^s historic experimental flight, a migrating population had not been seen in southern Indiana for more than 100 years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 National Wildlife Refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 65 National Fish Hatcheries, 64 Fish and Wildlife Assistance Offices, and 78 Ecological Services Field Offices. The agency enforces ederal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies. For more information about endangered species and other programs managed by the Service, please visit our web site at: http://www.fws.gov/r3pao/