The Swans of Lake Wenatchee

A bevy of swans over winter at Lake Wenatchee. They summer somewhere else, but you may still see them in the next few weeks. Here is some background information collected by resident birder Mary Gallagher.

Ed Martinez, North Shore resident, captured the photograph from his kayak on March 22. To see more images

A very special visitor to Lake Wenatchee and Fish Lake (when there is open water), the Trumpeter Swans typically arrive around November and stay through March. Usually they are in small family groups of three to five but often, like this March, multiple family groups will come together. They come because of the plethora of aquatic plants found at the far end of the lake. Due to their long necks they can reach deep into the water to feed. They also like the far end of the Lake because few humans venture there in the Winter. If you do travel by boat, please keep your distance. From land, the best places to see them are to snowshoe into Glacier View campground or invite yourself over to a friend who has a place on the Lake, keep six feet apart, and wait for them to swim or fly by. Binoculars or spotting scopes will help you see the largest North American waterfowl. Please respect their privacy.

Where do they go other times of the year?

Local expert, Heather Murphy, retired USFS Wildlife biologist, shared this:

“Overwintering Trumpeter Swans at Lake Wenatchee were recorded in the early 1990’s. They had USFWS neck bands, so we were able to find out their banding location. It was at Yellowstone National Park. Most of the Yellowstone birds wintered at Klammath Basin in Oregon/California border wetlands. Our band of seven came here to Lake Wenatchee. Breeding is most likely Yellowstone, but over the decades, they may have shifted somewhere further north into the Yukon or into Alaska…or closer here like Stehekin or Canadian lakes. Sharing data with other wildlife biologists, Stehekin also has a good wintering population of Trumpeter Swans. Both Lake Wenatchee and Stehekin have a few swans staying into the breeding season, but I haven’t seen records of breeding here. We just don’t know where these particular swans go, as they are not banded nor telemetry. The Trumpeter Swan Society does an important job of tracking these species. Lake Wenatchee is in the overlap of the Pacific Coast population and the Rocky Mountain population.”

Here’s their site – https://www.trumpeterswansociety.org/swan-information/identification/