News & Resources


Trumpeter Swans on Louie’s Pond - April 20, 2017

Apr 20, 2017

Today we had some of the best viewing ever of the larger Trumpeter Swan. Thanks to the skills of our Scientific Technician, Lindsay Barden, we can share this experience with you in these photos and video.



Trumpeters derive their name from their loud, deep “trumpeting” voice, which contrasts with the softer, more mellow and higher pitched “cooing” of their smaller relative, the Tundra Swan. Trumpeters are described as “rare” wherever they occur, although the species is not listed as threatened or endangered. Best estimates put the current North American population at between 50,000 and 60,000 birds, with probably 10,000 to 20,000 in the so-called “Interior Population” of the US and Canada, whose range includes Michigan. While not listed as Threatened or Endangered, they have perhaps the lowest genetic diversity of any waterfowl species because almost all individuals alive today are descendants of a population that had, by the 1930s, been reduced to less than 100 birds in and around the Yellowstone Region in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. At this critical time, a special reserve in Montana, the Red Rocks Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, was created just for these survivors. From that point on, through protection, habitat management, reintroduction, and the discovery of another population in Alaska in the 1950s, the Trumpeter has recovered dramatically. Although still a rare sight, its populations are secure, increasing, and expanding in range.


The swans with us today are an adult male and female who have apparently found our current weather of cool rain and overcast skies much to their liking. They have been feeding and “loafing” in Louie’s Pond (named after Louie Kleinschmidt, the man who sold the land that would eventually become the Au Sable Institute to Au Sable’s Founder, Dr. Harold Snyder), and “tipping” in shallow water to pull up and consume rooted aquatic vegetation. Like the Trumpeter Swan, Louie’s Pond is also a comeback story. Reduced to little more than a small “hole” of permanent water in the southeast corner of its original area after years of higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average rainfall from the 1990s through the first decade of the new Millennium, the Pond began to recover around 2012 when precipitation increased, temperatures cooled slightly, and water levels began to rise. Today, Louie’s Pond occupies nearly all of its past acreage. For those of you who were students here in the 1980s, it is beginning to look just like you would remember it, except for the swans. I’ll bet you never saw them here then!

Enjoy the photos and video and envision yourself back on the Au Sable Campus. And when you’re done, plan a visit. We’d love to see you again.

Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Executive Director