VALPARAISO — Taltree Arboretum & Gardens’ trumpeter swans took a 20-minute waddle to their spring and summer home in the non-profit’s wetlands on Tuesday morning with the help of some of their two-legged friends.
The male and female pair spend the winter months in their enclosure near the Railway Garden. Each spring, Taltree staff members open the gate to the enclosure and slowly assist the swans in their slow waddle down a path to the Window to the Wetlands. Four staff members walked alongside and behind the pair to ensure they did not veer from the intended path.
The birds were never touched during the process.
“It’s really amazing because once they hit the grass, they know the way,” said Chad Cronin, grounds and facilities manager. “They get close and they’re ready to jump in the water.”
Trumpter swans are on the state endangered species list in Indiana. The status requires Taltree to maintain state permits to house and care for the birds.
The pair have yet to reproduce, but staff members are hoping this will be the year for new additions to Taltree’s feathered family. Both are between the ages of 4 and 5, which is typically when mating takes place.
The trumpeter swans began showing signs they were ready to mate in 2015, with the male doing a mating dance and the female building a nest for the first time. This spring, the couple have been restless in their enclosure and staff members are hoping the behavior is due to the desire to mate.
Taltree is taking steps to assist and encourage nesting by providing straw, hay, twigs and sticks on an island in the wetland. Any offspring produced will be relocated to Florida with the assistance of the Trumpter Swan Society, where they will be integrated into a migrating flock.
Visitors can view the swans at the window to the wetlands at Taltree during normal hours of operation. The male is easily identified as the larger of the two birds and when on land, holds his neck high and puffs out his chest. The female is smaller and often has her head down and her neck lower.