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Interactive Instruction: Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swan Online Elective

Literature Resources/Connections

Day 1
Welcome to our Elective! Let's make an adorable swan nametag using feathers, beads and wiggle eyes. The fun is about to begin!

Read about Trumpeter Swans Facts and color a swan online.

What have you learned about Trumpeter Swans?  Can you answer the following questions?

What is a Pen?
What is a Cob?
What is a Cygnet?

Day 2
Let's learn more about Trumpeter Swans and listen to the happy swans.

Read the information below and visit this swan website to learn more about swans.  Don't forget to record your information.  Write the following questions on a piece of paper.

Scientific Name:  What is the scientific name for a swan?
Description:  What do Trumpeter Swans look like?
Habitat:  Where do Trumpeter Swans live?
Food:  What do Trumpeter Swans eat?
Behavior:  How do Trumpeter Swans act?

Swan Facts
Scientific Name: (Cygnus buccinator)

The Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl species native to North America. Trumpeters usually weigh 21-30 pounds, although large males may exceed 35 pounds. The male is called a cob; the female is called a pen. With a wingspan over 7 feet, these snow-white birds are truly spectacular. Standing on the ground, an adult Trumpeter stands about 4 feet high. Their long necks allow them to uproot plants in 4 feet of water.

At one time, it was believed that Trumpeter Swans were extinct. A nonmigratory population survived in the remote mountain valleys of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Two nests were also found in Yellowstone National Park. We now know that a population of several thousand Trumpeters also survived in remote parts of Alaska and Canada. Special efforts have been made to move Trumpeter Swans to Jackson, Wyoming and Minnesota and Michigan.
Historic Breeding Ranges for Trumpeter Swans Map

Trumpeter Swan nesting territories be 6 to 150 acres in size. Large, wetlands 1-3 feet deep with a mix of emergent vegetation and open water offer ideal habitat. Such locations support a rich variety of submergent (underwater) plants used for food, such as sago pondweed and water milfoil. Trumpeter Swans also eat emergent plants such as arrowhead, burreed, bulrush, sedges, and wild rice.

Most Trumpeters don't nest until they are four to six years old. Trumpeter Swans mate for life and may live for 20 to 30 years. If one member of a pair dies, the survivor finds another mate. A cob usually replaces its lost mate with a younger pen and returns to the former nesting territory. When a pen remates, it also returns to its former nesting territory. Pairs may select a nesting area near where the pen hatched. The pen chooses the specific nesting area and the cob defends it, sometimes joined by the pen. If a pair spends at least two summers at the same nesting location, it will form an almost unbreakable attachment to the site.
A Trumpeter pair typically arrives on the breeding grounds soon after ice melt in early spring. For the first few weeks after arrival the pair engages in courtship behavior, bobbing their heads and quivering their wings while facing each other.

Interesting Information:
Swan skins were sold in the fur trade to Europe where they were used to make ladies' powder puffs and feathers were used to adorn fashionable hats.

Let's play a swan game outside:  Cobs & Pens 

Pens are on one end of the play area. Cobs are in the middle of the play area. Cobs will where a white ribbon or something that shows they are the Cobs. Cobs will try to tag the Pens. Make sure students have enough space to play this game. The game starts when the Cobs say "we are the Cobs". The Pens will then say "we are the Pens." The Cobs will say " we're going to tag you". The Pens say, "Let's see you try". Then the Pens will try to reach the other end of the play area without getting tagged. If they get tagged, they become a Cob and will then try to tag the remaining Pens. They will need to put on a white ribbon. If the Pens reach the other side of the play area without getting tagged, then they are safe. A signal will be given by the teacher and they will try to return to the opposite end of the play area without getting tagged. When only a few pens are left, end the game. Choose new Cobs and Pens and play again. Discuss strategies for playing the game.

Day 3
Let's begin Day two with a fun swan puzzle!!! Click her to complete an online SWAN PUZZLE!!!

Learn about the return of this Trumpeter Swan!

 Day 4
Let's go to DRAW YOUR WORLD and have fun reading, drawing, and writing a story about a swan.


The Swan Mush Pot
outside game

Kids sit down in a big circle. A child is "it" and walks around the circle. They walk around and tap people's heads and say whether they are a "duck" or a "swan". Once someone is the "swan" they get up and try chasing them around the circle. The goal is to tap the "it" person before they sit down in the "swan's" spot. If the swan is not able to do this, they become "it" for the next round and play continues. If they do tap the "it" person, the person tagged has to sit in the center of the circle. Then the swan becomes "it" for the next round. Kids can return to the big circle when they are replaced by another child.

Day 5
Let's Make a Bird Nest Pin

Let's learn more about those cute cygnets! Trumpeter Swans usually nest when they are four to six years old. Trumpeter Swans mate for life and can live for 20 to 30 years. If one swan dies, the other swan will find a new mate. A Trumpeter pair usually arrives on their selected breeding ground in the beginning of spring. During the first few weeks the swans engage in courtship behavior, bobbing their heads and quivering their wings while facing each other.

Swans like large, shallow wetlands 1-3 feet deep with emergent vegetation and open water. This is the perfect habitat for a Trumpeter Swan. These swans like a variety of submergent (underwater) plants for food. Examples of submergent plants are sago pondweed and water milfoil. Trumpeters also enjoy emergent plants such as arrowhead, burreed, bulrush, sedges, and wild rice.

The nests may be as wide as 6 feet or more. Trumpeters build their nests on top of muskrat or beaver lodges, or they pile sedges and cattail tubers into a mound. The cob gathers the vegetation and gives to the pen. The pen piles it high, then uses her body to form a depression for the eggs. The same nest may be used for years. Usually, water surrounds the nest. This protects the swans from mammals.

Beginning in late April to early May, the pen lays one egg about 4 1/2 inches long and 3 inches wide every other day until there is a clutch of 5-9 eggs. Once all eggs have been laid, the pen incubates the eggs and the cob protects the nest against all intruders.

Incubation lasts about 33-34 days. The pen will sometimes leave the nest to feed, bathe, and preen her feathers. Preening is very important because it maintains the bird's plumage. Preening is when a Trumpeter presses its bill against the base of his tail to extract a greasy fluid from an oil gland. This greasy fluid is used to recondition, clean, and waterproof the feathers.

When the pen leaves the nest, she covers the eggs with nest material. The cob will watch the nest to protect the eggs from its enemies. The cob will chase enemies away and perform a "triumph display". A triumph display is when the swans Face each other and quiver their wings and trumpet loudly.

Baby cygnets will hatch in June and they weigh about 7 ounces. In one to two days they go to the water to feed on insects and other aquatic invertebrates. Invertebrates do not have a backbone. When cygnets are four to six weeks old, they feed on aquatic vegetation. Swans use their beaks to uproot the vegetation. At this time, the cob and pen begin molting. Flight feathers on the wings and tail shed and are replaced.

The pen usually molts first, two to three weeks after egg-hatching. The cob's molt follows after the pen has all of her new feathers. Molting lasts about 30 days. Adult swans need to be careful of predators because they can not fly until they get their new feathers. One swan is always able to protect the cygnets.

The cygnets grow rapidly. When they are 15 weeks old, they weigh about 20 pounds. That means they gain more than a pound a week. When they are 15 weeks old, they can fly!

Cygnets begin practicing short flights during September so they are ready to migrate with their parents. Parents and their cygnets return year after year to the same winter feeding sites. The quality and quantity of winter foods influences productivity during the next breeding season. Cygnets will remain with their parents and migrate North during the winter. At this time, the parents make the cygnets leave. They cygnets are usually about one year old when they separate from their parents. They stay in sibling groups until they are about two years old. Then they find a mate of their own!!!

Day 6
Let's begin the day with some musical fun!

Trumpeter Swans
Tune: Three Blind Mice
Written by Mrs. Buda  

Trumpeter swans, Trumpeter swans,
Wings seven feet wide,
Wings seven feet wide.
They're all snow-white with their sleek black bills,
Who bob their heads to eat their meals.
Did you ever see them fluff all of their quills,
Those Trumpeter swans!

see swan photos, meet swans, follow swans as they migrate (maps), and learn to collar a swan Trumpeter Swan

 Day 7
Merlin is a wizard who turned the king into into small animals. Merlin is visiting us today and you are going to turn into a spectacular Trumpeter Swan. Okay, Trumpeter Swans let's go on a virtual tour.

The virtual tour is over but let's make our very own origami swan that we will remember our trip!!! 

(Paper Instructions for Origami Swan)  See our example using white paper!!!   

Day 8
Let's meet Sebastion and read more fun stories about swans!! Swan Stories

Now, let's write a fun imaginary story about a swan.  Make sure to include an illustration!!!!

Do you need a story starter???
Once upon a time there was a swan that lived in a castle...

I heard  the sound of trumpets in my backyard and...

Day 9

Today we will make our art project to go with our swan stories!

1. Students will be given a large piece of construction paper. They can choose a color that they like!

2. Students will use a crayon and draw an outline of a swan.

3. Students will tear newspaper and glue it inside of the outline of the swan.

4. Students will use construction paper to add special details, (beak, black outline of swan's head, water, plants, sun, moon)

Here is an example of what your art project could look like!




Let's Make an online puzzle!  (all about swans, of course...)

Graceful Graceful Swimming Swan
Tune: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Written by Mrs. Tina Buda

Graceful, Graceful Swimming Swan,

over the wetlands you glide on.

Then you migrate and take flight,
Graceful, Graceful swimming swan,
Over the wetlands you glide on.  

Day 10
Okay kids, today we are going to make Fluffer-Nutter sandwiches for a snack and we will read a true story about a swan who loved peanut butter sandwiches!  The Trumpeter Swan Who Loved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Nutter Fluffer Recipe
Peanut Butter
Marshmallow spread

Where is my Cygnet?
outside game by Mrs. Tina Buda

The children will form a standing circle. The pen (female swan) is blindfolded and stands inside the circle. The cygnet (baby swan) also stands inside the circle. The blindfolded pen calls out "pen" and the cygnet then calls out "cygnet". The pen tries to locate and tap the cygnet. The children will gently guide the pen to the inside of the circle if he strays from the circle. The cygnet will try to avoid being tapped by the pen. If the pen finds it too difficult to tap the cygnet, then another cygnet can be added to the inside of the circle.