DES MOINES, Iowa – They are looking for still water with aquatic plants to refuel them and 100-yard runways for when it’s time to get back in the air to continue south for the winter. The largest waterfowl in North America is the Trumpeter Swan and a whole lot of them stopped at Maffitt Reservoir this week.

They get their name from the sound they make. Be sure to listen to the video if you’ve never heard it before. Then hang on ’til the end and you’ll hear as about a dozen lift themselves into the air with a sound that almost defies description. With a wingspan of 8 feet and weighing as much as 38 pounds, these swans make a racket. The Canada Geese they are sharing the lake with appear small when the Trumpeters are nearby.

Trumpeter Swans are a living example of a conservation victory. In 1935 there were only 69 known to be alive after they were overhunted and their habitats drained to be converted to farmland. In 2005 there were nearly 35,000. There are some nesting in Iowa as efforts to make habitat suitable for them continues.