They're back – and making no secret of their presence.
Huge trumpeter swans, the impressive white birds with a 7-foot wingspan that weigh up to 28 pounds, are steadily increasing their numbers – particularly in Alaska. This fall in Anchorage, dozens of the loud honkers spent time at Potter Marsh in south Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, before flying south. It wasn't always that way.
A 1968 Alaska census found just 2,847 trumpeter swans, according to the Associated Press. By 2010, the number was up to 25,347 – a nine-fold increase.
Hunted during the 1800s for their meat and feathers, the population of the swans plummeted. By the early 1930s, only 69 trumpeters were counted in Yellowstone National Park, federal wildlife biologist Deborah Groves told the AP.
While Lower 48 trumpeter swan numbers crashed, a remnant population of a couple of thousand trumpeters remained in Alaska, Groves said. Alaska surveyed them in 1968, and every five years since 1975.
"They were increasing almost exponentially for a while," said Groves, who's counted them sincw 1990. "They've done fantastically in Alaska."