Trumpeter Swan

One of Iowa’s greatest conservation success stories, the Trumpeter Swan was once absent from our state. But, thanks to efforts from many individuals and organizations, this simply beautiful bird has returned to Iowa wetlands.

More information

See the Trumpeter Swan's profile on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Photo credit

Collage Photo (above): By Richard Crossley (Richard Crossley) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


It's mean. I think it's mean because it doesn't have to be nice. It's so beautiful. Let's welcome it back to Iowa after near extinction. Nothing is the best part of the swan. I like to listen to the wings right above my head. It's awesome. They're just scary. Does it have down like ducks and geese? It doesn't get wet. It's like bullet-proof.

Write a poem
About swans
Not nice!

They're big and white.
We've seen them in the field this spring.

Black feet.
Black beak.
Black bleat.
Bleary trumpet.
One sounds
like a hundert.
Thunder down.
Buoyant wobble.
Robber's mask.
You're handsome
and welcome
and then some.

My name is Juan
I am a Swan
I met Sam,
how we swam,
Sam and Juan,
Swam and swam.

White wings. Webbed feet. Flight
feathers folded.
These are the birds of my dreams,
German dreams of childhood--nightmares
of brothers who become beasts, turn again, again return 
to a moat
around some mountain castle.

In Yupik culture
The Swan represents 
A true heart

"So trumpeter swans have down?" 
we asked the guide with his little tan
shorts and binoculars. 

"Like geese, trumpeter swans are downy 
for days under their whipped peaks 
of white princess feathers," he explained.

"Then why aren't our pillows
packed with it, sir?" Margie asked, 
already seeming miffed. Swan down 
did sound more deluxe than goose. 
Were we getting the short end 
of the down? 

"Maybe it's too hard to take it away
from them!" I offered.

The guide blew a whistle, and all the swans 
on the lake aligned their jet black beaks 
straight at Margie, like compass needles. 

"Nah, it's a breeze," said the guide. 
"Knock yourself out." 
He lit a cigarette and walked away. 

We couldn't see their swimming because 
their feet were under the water which mirrored 
their bodies, and ours, too, but they were 
definitely getting closer, making 
excellent time.

It’s spring, and the peacocks
are in heat, again.
The male chases peahens
as quickly as he can dragging
his fan of fanciful feathers 
with eyes of gold, blue and green.
He screams, he rages down the street
after the peahens who seek
refuge in my neighbor’s lawn
and, sometimes, our doorway.
For as loud as its call can be, 
for as singular and solitary, 
it’s surprising this bird isn’t named
for its high-pitched honk, its moo,
its mewl like a ball deflating,
like an old car horn. Some birds
are named for their symphonic
parts. Take the trumpeter swan,
its sound is a muted trumpet 
call, a thing of beauty, Dizzy
Gillespie at the mouthpiece,
its beauty, obvious — a graceful
long neck, shadowed eyes, 
a sleek, snow-white coat 
worthy muse of ballets and fairytales.
Like all the pretty birds — peacocks,
flamingoes, snowy egrets, roseate
spoonbills, great herons — 
the trumpeter swan was once
hunted for its plumage to adorn,
to decorate women’s hats and quills.
Shot in springtime, rookeries robbed.
In the Everglades, nesting birds
were hunted almost to extinction.
It’s easy for humans to mythologize,
to control what they cannot ever
fully understand. Take women. Take Eve.
Once endangered, today the birds 
are thriving. Once adorned, now adored — 
one letter makes all the difference.

Why so loud? Bleeping swan. Neck like a column. I've been thinking about socks on hands. Thick and ropey. Beautiful white feathers. Submerged, emerged. Throaty. That's what I'd name a swan. Thank you for living with us.

Swanky swan
swam with glam
from around midnight
to the break of dawn

April’s Grace

Built from the craters of the moon, 
swim with me, your highness. 
Warrior goddess, I’m fond of your power.

Your elegant wings mimic mine,
Our necks curving like a sweet candy cane
noel feathers and midnight maquillage eyes.
I’ll die of heartbreak the day you decay.

You are the only affection I acquire,
meet face to face, and love me eternally. 
Singing Swan Lake Symphony, we waltz together. 
You’re a heated white seraph, so pure and divine.

Your luring music has my attention.
Do you hold a weight, vexed creature?
Your fiery ash eyes say it all. 


No intruder you
lumbering in and out of our waters
Whose brush with death now pushes you to new boundaries
Staying true to your roots 
unclipped and wild
You give voice to your elegant cousin
Reminding us that true beauty is bestowed not owned

My Way or the Highway

Big, strong, loud!
One who is not outspoken.
You see its white feathers just like a cloud.
If you see my big white feathers, get outta my way!
You better listen to what I say.
If you make me mad, get away.
I know it's repetitive, but I blow my own horn.
I'm the only one in my band.
I am literally called the trumpeter swan.
My trumpet doesn't need a mute.
I use my neck to call you, "Pay attention!" with.
I know it's crazy, but trust me, it's not a myth.
If you see me, I'm not someone you wanna mess with.
My horns sounds in its own riff.
Forget red and black. Black and white are my colors.
I am an anarchist swan. No queen owns me.
When I honk, I make the other side panicky.
I am beautiful my own way, no matter what other people say.
I am the trumpeter swan so get outta my way!
If you don't, I'll make you pay, because at the end of the day, it's my way, or the highway.

I am the Trumpeter Swan

If you don't like the way I honk

Well then get out of my way

Swan knees
I don't see'em 
I don't see'em
Where are the swan knees?

To think all loss is merely the way 
it flies—
Rescind such assumption when
agency’s to blame.
Under the feather, the shadow of a
feather, here and gone.
Make of the beauty of mating for life
what you will?
Penned subject through the ages,
swan’s beak a quill dipped in ink—
Evening also teaches us to glide if we
can into night,
To see the malice in careless loss and
to curate return.
Eternity’s estate knows no gated gaze. 
Rescue, yes, the water, the reeds, 
the clouded spirit floating free of your
shivering image.