Thousands of swans have made an Idaho wildlife area their home this winter, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
More than 2,500 trumpeter swans have spent the last several weeks at the Deer Parks Wildlife Mitigation Unit in East Idaho, about 20 miles north of Idaho Falls. By Fish and Game officials’ estimate, that’s nearly a quarter of the entire Rocky Mountain trumpeter swan population.
The swans, along with ducks, geese and numerous shorebirds, fly in and out of the area’s grain fields each day, according to the release. Fish and Game plants the fields for the birds, who usually feed on grasses and plants in bodies of water.
“In recent decades swans wintering in eastern Idaho have shifted their feeding habits to include feeding on agricultural crops adjacent to rivers,” the release said. “Their ability to adapt to agricultural food sources has resulted in significant growth in the Rocky Mountain population of trumpeter swans. The proteins they ingest now will play a crucial role in successful egg production.”
Though trumpeter swan populations have since recovered, the birds nearly went extinct in the early 20th century. Today, they occupy only a fraction of the range they once covered in the United States. In recent years, wildlife biologists in Yellowstone National Park have worked to rebuild the trumpeter swan population there, which has dwindled to as few as eight or nine animals.
The swans will begin their migration to their Canada breeding grounds sometime in March, Fish and Game’s release said, so hopeful birders should plan a trip to Deer Parks sooner rather than later.