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Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinators) historically nested throughout the state of Iowa; however, wetland drainage and unregulated harvest of trumpeters led to the extirpation of the species, with the last nesting pair occurring in 1883. Trumpeter swans were first given nationwide protection in 1918 with the International Migratory Bird Treaty. A nationwide survey in the early 1930s indicated that there were only 69 trumpeter swans in the continental United States, all located at what became the Red Rocks Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Montana.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources first developed a plan to restore trumpeter swans to the state in 1993. An initial goal was set to establish 15 nesting pairs by 2003, which was met by 2004, and by 2005, 25 pairs were nesting in the state. At the same time, the Iowa DNR launched their Trumpet the Cause for Wetlands program to promote the positive values of wetlands. The trumpeter swan has served as an excellent ambassador for wetland conservation.
Trumpeter swans were first given nationwide protection in 1918 when the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed the International Migratory Bird Treaty. A nationwide swan count in the early 1930’s showed that only 69 existed in the continental United States with all those occurring in Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana.
Between 1995 and 2021, the Iowa DNR released over 1,200 trumpeter swans in over 80 locations. Swans restored to the state were obtained from zoos, private propagators, and other state swan projects. The DNR also established flightless breeder pairs at appropriate sites, the young of which were allowed free flight. As many as 50 breeding pair partnership sites were established at the height of restoration.
This restoration was made possible through outside funding including a generous $143,000 in memory of David A. and Robert Luglan Sampson, formerly of Webster City. Numerous individuals, organizations, and corporations have contributed significant smaller dollar amounts. Considerable soft match in-kind contributions have also been made and are estimated at over $250,000.
Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) nested in Iowa until the biocide crash of the 1950s caused by pesticides like DDT, with the last confirmed nest in 1956. Peregrine falcon numbers were so low that by 1964 they were extirpated (locally extinct) from the eastern United States as a breeding bird. Iowa’s Peregrine Falcon Restoration project began in 1989 against the background of a nationwide movement to restore the bird. Iowa set an initial goal of establishing 5 breeding pairs by the year 2000 with an ultimate goal of 10 breeding pairs for a viable population.
The Midwestern and Great Lakes region met their goal of 20-25 breeding pairs and then made a new goal of 40 pairs. This secondary goal was met in 1994 with 61 territorial pairs and 41 successful nesting pairs. Iowa had only two nesting pairs in 1994, both of which were utilizing nest boxes on high-rise buildings in urban areas. It did not look like Iowa would reach its goal of five breeding pairs by 2000 without additional releases. In 1998, the Iowa DNR decided to prioritize returning falcons to their historic nesting eyries and focused on cliff-side releases as opposed to urban releases. Iowa first reached their goal of five nesting peregrine falcons in 2002 when they had six falcon territories with five of them successfully fledging young.
The peregrine falcon was delisted as a federal endangered species in 1999, though it remained an Iowa state endangered species until 2010. 2010 also happened to be the first year Iowa had 20 successful peregrine falcon nests. In 2022 16 territorial pairs nested and produced at least 21 young!
To learn more about Peregrine Falcons and read the annual status report visit the Peregrine Falcon Webpage.
Prairie-chicken Sightings Wanted!
In order to ensure this species stays in Iowa we need to know how prairie chickens are distributed in Southern Iowa. Sightings of prairie chickens are possible in Adair, Madison, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, Decatur and Wayne Counties. If you see any prairie chickens, whether it is on a booming ground or was flushed out of some grass, we would like to hear about it. Call Stephanie at 515-230-6599 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also fill out this online form.