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DayCreek Journal

September 27 , 2006

The Story of 1H2

While on one of my bird field trips along the Mississippi River, I came across a Trumpeter Swan. Trumpeter Swans use to be quite prevelant throughout North America until the "white man" came along and nearly caused them to become extinct. It was widely thought at one time that they had become extinct, but a few of them survived. They were hunted for their feathers which were used to make ladie's powder puffs and hats. (I hope future generations don't look at us with the same level of stupidity that I view our ancestors. But I digress...)

Of course viewing the trumpeter swan with that nice big red band number piqued my interest. Just a few weeks before photographing this trumpeter swan, I had photographed a bald eagle in which I was able to read the bird's leg band least part of the number.

Why oh why do they make band numbers that you can't read unless the bird is in your physical hands? I would have loved to find out the history of the bald eagle, but without a complete number I was told that I couldn't obtain any information.

Back to the trumpeter swan. My first call was to USGS Bird Banding Lab in Washington, DC. I was confident that this time they could help me since I had the BIG RED neck band number. As it turns out, they were of no help at all! They told me the red band number was not useful. They needed the leg band number. Now take another look at the above photograph. If you look closely, you can see a silver leg band number. There is no way anyone is going to read the leg band number unless this bird has been captured or was found dead.

The women on the phone informed me that I should call Laurel, Maryland. They handle partial bird band numbers. (This was the same answer I got when I phoned about the bald eagle.) So I called the number in Maryland and got a recorded message asking me to leave a message and they would get back to me with information. (Here we go again I thought! The first time a left a message about the bald eagle, I never got a return call.) I left a message, but I doubted I would get a return call. (I never did.)

Back to square one. I started doing more research. I did a google search for "Red Band" and "Trumpeter Swan" and found a link to the Iowa DNR office. I wasn't sure if they could help, but maybe they could point me in the right direction.

Calling the Iowa DNR office made my day. As it turns out, trumpeter swans with red neck bands were released in Iowa. The women didn't have any specifics on 1H2, but she told me I should get a return call with some answers.

I patiently waited until the next day and finally called the number again. The women said the person I needed to talk to was out yesterday, but was in the office today. She transferred me to David Hoffman, Wildlife Technician for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. David was a wealth of information.

By giving him the trumpeter swan's neck band number of 1H2, he told me all about the bird.

The trumpeter swan is a male and was hatched in 2004 at the Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota. It was then sent to Iowa and released into the wild at Wildwood Lake. Before making its appearance here in SE Minnesota, the bird was last seen on January 24, 2006 with eight other trumpeter swans in Wheatland, IA.

The bird is just over two years old and not mature enough yet to mate. Males are usually three years of age and females four years of age before they mate. So maybe next year, 1H2 will find a partner. Trumpeter swans mate for life.

Here's some interesting facts about the Iowa Trumpeter Swan Program:

  • From an historical perspective, the last time trumpeter swans bred in Iowa before this program was in 1883.
  • Field work initiated in 1995 and in 1998 and 1999 the first pair of trumpeter swans nested on a private pond in Dubuque County.
  • By 2005 there were 26 wild nesting attempts, 87 cignets (chicks) were hatched and 67 survived to flight stage.
  • Several of the trumpeter swans released in Iowa have successfully nested in Minnesota, Wisconsin and one pair in Missouri.
  • To date, 685 trumpter swans have been released.
  • 197 known mortalities have occurred to date: 39 from power line collisions, 41 poached by violators, 22 from diseases, 7 from lead poisoning (lead fishing weights), 7 from predators and 81 from unknown causes.
  • Iowa trumpeter swans were initially neck-collared with green, then red collars’ both with 2 white numbers & 1 white letter & a corresponding plastic & FWS lock on band.
  • Additional Trumpeter Swan information available at the following web sites: Iowa Department of Natural Resources , the ISU Trumpeter Swan committee , the Trumpeter Swan Society .
  • During the nesting season a nesting pair of swans can be observed on a web cam at
  • For more information or questions concerning Trumpeter Swans contact Ron Andrews or Dave Hoffman, Iowa Trumpeter Swan restoration coordinators, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 1203 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, IA. 50428.

A very special thanks goes out to David for taking the time to find out the history of trumpeter swan 1H2. We need more programs like Iowa's successful trumpeter swan program!

Now if only I could find out more about that bald eagle...