Swans, pelicans, cormorants and loons


The tundra, or whistling, swan is a relative of the trumpeter,but is not normally seen in Illinois. From time to time, theycan be seen in the northern part of the state.
Trumpeter swans are the largest of the waterfowl seen in Illinois. They can weigh nearly 40 pounds and have a wingspan of 7-8 feet. Trumpeter swans disappeared from Illinois by the late 1800's, but have been staging a comeback. Note the green identification band placed around its neck by researchers. Mute swans have orange bills with a black edge and a line that extends to the eye. Mute swans were imported to the U.S. to be placed in parks and estates. Escapees are now competing with native birds for food in some parts of the country.



American White Pelicans are white with black primary feathers. Their large bills contain a pouch for scooping up fish. The pouch is not visible during flight.

Their presence in Illinois is an interesting story, because their normal migration route is well west of here. A few years back, a group of pelicans wound up in the Illinois River Valley.

Perhaps a storm pushed them off course. Whatever the reason, they have returned in greater numbers each year. Migration is a learned behavior, and apparently the pelicans have learned that the route to a warm winter home goes through Illinois!

Pelicans often fish cooperatively in groups(above). These pelicans were seen at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge north of Havana.

Double-crested cormorants can be seen diving for fish during migration time in Illinois. They have a hooked bill that is easier to see than the double crest which is usually flat to the head. These roosting cormorants were located by their loud and eerie "croak." They were seen on Lake Springfield in Sangamon county during fall migration.

Common loons are the loon species most likely to be seen in Illinois. They are regularly found on large bodies of water during migration. Sometimes, loons mistake large expanses of wet pavement for water and try to land. Unfortunately, loons are very front heavy and must be on water in order to take off again. In the past, loons have been brought to the Illinois Raptor Center that have landed on roadways or parking lots. The birds pictured were released at Lake Shelbyville after a couple of days of observation. They also consumed a fortune in fish during their stay with us.  

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