- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) - Two rare birds considered completely extinct in most of the country by the early 20th century have graced the grounds of Taltree Arboretum for the last three years.

Swans are not common in the Midwest, and trumpeter swans are rare. But the pair at Taltree are available for viewing regularly. They spend spring and summer months in Taltree’s wetland. Their fall and winter home is surrounded by fences in the Railway Garden with access to a pond with a bubbler. Their care and transport between seasons is overseen by Taltree staff, a local veterinarian and veterinary technician.

Taltree joined the Trumpeter Swan Society in order to assure the vitality and welfare of the birds.

“We know how lucky we are to have such a unique bird (species) living at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens and are delighted to offer visitors an opportunity to witness their immense beauty,” Taltree interim Executive Director Stephanie Blackstock said.

The swans, which can be more than 4 feet long with a 7- to 10-foot wingspan, have not been able to sufficiently grow their population in the Great Lakes region due to an increase in competition for habitat by the non-native mute swan. Taltree is working closely with Trumpeter Swan Society to reintroduce the birds into the Midwest.

The Taltree swans are 4 years old and have a lifespan of about 30 years. Maddie Grimm, Taltree director of education, said the organization hopes to keep the nesting pair on site for their whole lifespan.

“They are finally at nesting age and this year we hope they will lay eggs,” she said. “The babies will go to Minnesota to be with a breeding program to encourage the species to increase their population.”

Grimm said it’s done that way because their swans are pinioned - their wings are clipped - and they cannot teach their young how to migrate and forage for food.

“Some might say this is sad, but the best interest of the species is being addressed,” she said.

Grimm said staff supplements the swans’ diet for about half of the year, as their natural food cannot grow when it is cold. Their winter habitat is safe from coyotes and staff keeps an eye on them when the temperature drops.

“They grow down feathers but we want to make sure they are safe from the elements and that their water never freezes,” Grimm said.

The addition of more swans to Taltree has not been discussed because they need a lot of land area to live.

“We had a wild trumpeter swan visit and that was quite the ‘honking’ match,” Grimm said. “Most swans take over the ponds they are in and don’t allow any other swans to live there. The only difference is when a mute swan is involved. They are more aggressive and challenge out the trumpeter swan.”


Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/1EOcodB


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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