The trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator), named for its resonant call, is North America's largest wild waterfowl, with a wingspan of up to eight feet. These swans require open water, feed mainly on aquatic plants, and nest in wetlands. Although they once nested from Alaska to northern Missouri, trumpeter swans were nearly exterminated, due to habitat loss and primarily hunting. They were slaughtered in great numbers for their plumage, used to decorate ladies’ hats. Small populations survived in isolated areas such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where the population was thought to number only 69. This one and many others I spent time with along the Madison and Firehole Rivers in Yellowstone, during the peak of Winter. These particular rivers don't freeze during the winter, so they spend a lot of time there.
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