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Ecology and Management of Islands, Peninsulas and Structures for Nesting Waterfowl

A Floating Nest Platform for Trumpeter Swan and Related Species

Terry McEneaney
Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190

The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) is regarded as a species of special concern throughout North America. By the early 1900's the trumpeter swan population was so low that some scientists believed it was headed for extinction. Yellowstone National Park and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge played a leading role in the conservation efforts to safeguard this species. The remoteness of these areas coupled with strict enforcement, was responsible for the remarkable recovery of the population.

The trumpeter swan population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem reached it's peak in the 1960's, since that time there has been a dramatic decline in the population. There are multiple causes for the decline in the swan population but two main factors were identified, they include: 1.) lead poisoning from duck hunter's shot and fisherman's sinkers, and 2.) nest flooding as a result of adverse weather conditions. Lead shot is gradually being replaced with steel shot, but adverse weather conditions continue to remain a threat.

In an effort to mitigate for nest flooding and enhance the trumpeter swan population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an artificial floating nest platform was designed, developed, and implemented. Initial experiments with artificial floating nest platforms was conducted while employed at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and continue today in Yellowstone National Park (National Park Service). The artificial floating nest platforms are now being used by the U.S. Forest Service, the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., the Idaho Fish and Game Dept., Ducks Unlimited, and numerous private aviculturalists.

These artificial floating nest platforms are a modification of a basic design developed by the North American Loon Fund (Meredith, New Hampshire) for common loons (Gavia immer). The new design requires very low maintenance and can be left in the marsh indefinitely. All that is required is an annual refurbishing of the nest material. Placement of the floating nest platforms is critical however and highly influences the results. From 1984-1988, over 50 trumpeter swan eggs have hatched and 30 cygnets have fledged as a result of the artificial floating nest platforms. A size modification of this artificial nest platform design could benefit numerous other species such as geese, ducks, gulls, terns, grebes, etc.. Plans for the floating nest platform will be available at the symposium or can be obtained by contacting the author at the above address.

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