Mighty swan, lowly crow

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of when trumpeter swans were restored in Minnesota -- the first one from the restoration project was released at the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

This summer marks the 25th anniversary of when trumpeter swans were restored in Minnesota -- the first one from the restoration project was released at the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

So it seems only fitting that the bird be honored during the 15th annual Festival of Birds celebration next month in Detroit Lakes.

With a steady decline in trumpeter swans due to hunting in the 1800s and early 1900s, by the 1930s, there were only 69 trumpeter swans left in the lower 48 states.

In the 1960s, trumpeter swans started nesting in Minnesota for the first time in 80 years.

In the late '80s, eggs were collected and raised as part of the restoration project, and in May of 1987, 21 two-year-old trumpeter swans were released in Tamarac.


As of 2004, the Minnesota flock of swans has swelled to more than 2,000.

It's these facts and others that will be highlighted during the annual Festival of Birds May 17-20.

While the headquarters is in Detroit Lakes, fieldtrips and speakers' stories will take participants beyond the boundaries of Becker County -- even of the United States.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources supervisor Carrol Henderson, who released the first swans in Tamarac 25 years ago, will be speaking about trumpeter swans at this year's festival.

The second bird of focus for the Festival of Birds this year is the crow. The keynote speaker at the festival will be Professor John Marzluff, who specializes in crows and ravens.

While most people pigeonhole crows as annoying and loud, Marzluff has performed studies that prove the intelligence of crows. He has published books on crows and ravens, and a documentary on his work with facial recognition recently aired on PBS.

A professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington, Marzluff says the corvid family of birds act like humans, and their brains function much like human brains, which suggests human emotions and cognitive abilities are shared with crows, ravens and other corvid birds.

Field trip destinations


Friday's early morning field trips kick off with a new one to Seven Sisters Prairie, a nature conservancy on the edge of Lake Christina in Otter Tail County near Ashby.

The second stop on the field trip is at Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck.

The second field trip Friday is to the Balmoral Golf Course, where the red-headed woodpecker dominates, and then on to Glendalough State Park near Battle Lake.

That evening, participants can enjoy a wine tasting at Richwood Winery.

Saturday's morning field trips begin with a trip to Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, checking out the prairie chicken booms. There will be several stops around the 3,400-acre refuge, listening and watching for various bird species.

Another field trip will explore Tamarac Wildlife National Refuge, with Henderson on the trip to talk about the trumpeter swan release he was involved with 25 years ago.

A new field trip destination this year is the Frazee School District's forest, which is made up of 240 acres along the Otter Tail River. This trip will also make a stop at Sucker Creek Preserve in Detroit Lakes.

Stewart said while there have been small events at Sucker Creek in the past, "we haven't really done a field trip there."


Saturday also includes several free mini workshops at M-State, the bird festival headquarters. There will be workshops on the purple martin, prairie chickens and the trumpeter swan.

The festival is rounded out Sunday with a field trip to Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge and another trip to Ulen Prairie and White Wind Preserve, privately-owned land in Mahnomen County.

Four leaders and one naturalist are on each field trip bus so there is plenty of opportunity for questions and information along the way.

Registration for the festival can be done at the Detroit Lakes Chamber or online at There are various costs, depending on the event.

Early bird registrations by May 4 will be entered into a drawing for a pair of binoculars, and May 11 at 4 p.m. is the final deadline for registration.

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