Swans in the Stubble

Most of us picture swans gliding across calm lakes or feeding in shallow wetlands; golfers might also picture them lounging near water hazards.  After all, Swan Lake, the famous ballet, is renowned across the globe and hundreds (if not thousands) of "Swan Lakes" dot northern latitudes of our planet.

Today, however, while driving across the dry Glaciated Plain of north-central Missouri, I encountered twenty trumpeter swans, feeding in the corn stubble of a large crop field; the location was about 5 miles east of Mexico, Missouri, some 20 miles south of Mark Twain Lake.  No doubt, this was a migrant flock of trumpeters, among the thousands that have been reintroduced across the Upper Midwest since the 1980s (see Midwest Trumpeters).

Though I was not actively birding at the time, the large white birds were easy to spot amidst the dull brown stubble.  I pulled over for a better look and did not observe any neck bands among the distant swans; leg bands, if present, were hidden by the stalks.  Modern farming practices, which leave waste grain for wildlife, have played an important role in the successful reintroduction of these magnificent birds; fortunately, we can anticipate that sightings of trumpeter swans will become increasingly common across the American Heartland.