Monticello Swans

One place that I have heard a lot about is the Trumpeter Swan wintering grounds at Monticello, just north of the Twin Cities. I had always wanted to visit that place, and this holiday season provided me with that opportunity.

Wintering Trumpeter Swans

Downstream from the nuclear power plant in Monticello the Mississippi River is kept open by the power plant. The open water attracts thousands of waterfowl in the winter. visit this website for directions and more information about Monticello, MN.

Trumpeter Swans

Wow! It was non-stop swans! There were lots of Ducks and Geese mixed in too.

The Trumpeter Swan is the largest of all waterfowl in North America, they weigh anywhere from 21 to 35 pounds and can live up to 25 years. They mate for life.

The Trumpeter Swan story is an amazing one. These Swans were once common through out the US and Canada, but during the 19th century near extinction was caused by market hunting and mass market use of feathers for hats, pens and writing quills. Swan eggs were also collected for eating. By the late 1880’s, it was believed these huge birds were extinct. But in 1919 two nests were discovered in Yellowstone National Park, and for many years that was the only place you could see these magnificent birds.

In 1966, Minnesota began restoration attempts to bring this bird back to it’s historic range of occurrence. The efforts were pioneered by Hennepin Parks and then later by the MN DNR. By 1994, the project had raised and released 215 Trumpeters. Today there are an estimated 1,200 Trumpeters that winter in Monticello.

Juvenile Trumpeter Swans

Young swans are gray.

Trumpeter Swans feeding

This area of the river is shallow and provides a resting place for the swans. The local residents have assissted in establishing this safe haven by providing feed for the flocks. Sheila, the Swan Lady of Monticello, has taken on the role of caretaker. She uses a hopper that is filled with corn, and they’ve rigged a system that transports the feed, via a pipe, that brings the corn down to the river. In the past, Sheila struggled with transporting many pounds of corn and would spend 3-4 hours a day helping the Swans.

In the spring, the Swans disperse and spread out over Minnesota and Wisconsin to nest and raise young. In the spring it is possible that you will find Trumpeters in the Crane Lake area as they search for suitable nesting grounds. At that time, Trumpeter Swans may be found on area lakes and are easily heard as they honk their very loud calls. If you find a nest it should be reported to the DNR. Trumpeter Swans should be coming more common as their numbers increase. They nest in vast wetlands where they are safe from predators. An easy place to find and view nesting Trumpeters is at Crex Meadows in western Wisconsin. Thats where I took this video a couple years ago.


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1 Response to Monticello Swans

  1. My daughter and I made a trip to Monticello last winter to see the swans. We went later in the season when the numbers were much lower. We’ll need to get out there this week during school break. Thnks for the reminder!

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