The Trumpeter Swan, native to the Atlantic seaboard for thousands of years, was killed by settlers in such numbers that by 1932 only 69 swans were left in the lower 48 states.
Reintroduction programs have increased the population. But because swans, like other large birds, have no instinctual migratory knowledge (they learn the routes), scientists need to become the teachers and parents if natural populations are to be restored.
Just like in the movie, Fly Away Home, young birds can be trained to follow the flight of researchers in an ultralight aircraft to learn a migratory route as they would from their parent. The technique, “imprinting”, was used to bond, from birth, three baby swans to human researchers at the Airlie study center in Warrenton, Virginia. In December, the young swans (cygnets) followed along on a 103-mile ultralight journey to Maryland’s eastern shore to begin wintering there. If they navigate back to Airlie on their own, the Migratory Bird Project will log its first flying success.
May 20- UPDATE
Trumpeter Swans Found Way Back Home!
YoYo, Isabelle and Sydney, the one-year-old swans from Virginia, have all returned safely to the Arlie Study Center in Warrenton! Two of them successfully completed the historic migration from wintering grounds in Maryland. (See background above)…Meanwhile, the original pair hatched its initial spring clutch of 8-9 eggs, which was ‘abducted’ for imprinting to researchers, leading the pair toward the delivery of a second clutch.