Return to Community Science Projects

Trumpeter/Tundra Swan Survey



Trumpeter Swans

Photo by Hal Everett

Swan Study – Since the winter of 2011/2012, OPAS has partnered with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Swan Stewards of the Trumpeter Swan Society to conduct a swan survey in the Sequim/Dungeness area. The data collected by citizen science volunteer surveyors provides a data base of information that not only counts swan numbers, but locates feeding areas and night roosts.

During the winter of 2010/2011, five Trumpeter Swans were found dead in the Sequim area. Necropsies of the birds attributed their death to lead poisoning, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the swans ingested the lead in our area. It takes up to 3 weeks for a swan to die from lead poisoning, so they could have picked it up elsewhere before flying to this area.

When surveyors immediately report an injured, sick, or dead swan, Washington Department Fish and Wildlife can collect and remove the swan to determine the cause of the injury, sickness, or death. In the case of lead-poisoning, it is important to remove the swan as soon as possible so raptors and animals do not die of poisoning from feeding on the carcass. No lead poisoning deaths have been recorded in Sequim since the winter of 2010/2011.

Power lines are a significant cause of mortality for Trumpeter Swans, heavy-bodied birds that need plenty of room for takeoff and landing.  The use of power line bird diverters by Clallam County PUD has mitigated the issue in most cases. 

Trumpeters have been known to visit Sequim since four were reported during the 1982 OPAS Christmas Bird Count. Their numbers remained in the single digits (two years reported 0) with the exception of 1986 (21), 1994 (10), and 1999 (25). By 2005, their numbers stayed in the double digits until 2011 when their numbers jumped to triple digits where they remain through 2018.

The number of swans increased to a record count of 181 Trumpeter Swans during the Christmas Bird Count in December, 2016. In addition, an all-time high of 258 Trumpeter Swans was recorded by our swan study volunteers on February 23, 2017.