The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan


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The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan. Perhaps the most beautiful and graceful of all waterfowl, the swan is also one of the most misunderstood. Perhaps that’s because there are multiple species of swans with different characteristics, habits, and habitats.

Overall, both the Mute Swan and Trumpeter Swan are similar in many ways, including their monogamous mating behavior, age to adulthood, and habitat. However, they differ in their scientific names, life span, body shape, wing span, plumage, and migration habits.

Let’s go through these features one by one to help you understand the bird you saw and also know their aggressiveness and other features.

Related Article: Where Do Mute Swans Live?

Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) and trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) are both monogamous, paired for life, and reach adulthood at 3-4 years of age. However, they differ in their life span, body shape, wing span, plumage, and migration habits. While the mute swan has a prominent knob on its bill, the trumpeter swan has a straight, pointed bill. Mute swans lay 4-8 eggs, while trumpeter swans lay 4-6. Trumpeter swans have a longer life span of up to 20-30 years, compared to the mute swan’s life span of up to 20 years. Additionally, trumpeter swans have a larger wing span and are migratory, traveling south to winter in warmer climates.

The table below describes mute swan vs trumpeter swan in terms of similarities and differences:

CharacteristicMute SwanTrumpeter Swan
Scientific nameCygnus olorCygnus buccinator
Mating behaviorMonogamous, paired for lifeMonogamous, paired for life
Age to adulthood3-4 years3-4 years
Life spanUp to 20 yearsUp to 20-30 years
HabitatPonds, lakes, and slow-moving riversLarge lakes, ponds, and rivers
Nesting locationOn the ground near waterOn the ground near water
Egg-laying seasonLate April to early MayLate April to early June
Number of eggs4-84-6
Body shapeLarge, long neck, and a prominent knob on the billLarge, long neck, and a straight, pointed bill
Wing span6-7 feet7-8 feet
PlumageWhite feathers with an orange bill and black facial skinWhite feathers with a black bill and facial skin
Endangered statusNot endangeredLeast Concern
Migration habitsSome populations are sedentary, while others are migratoryMigratory, traveling south to winter in warmer climates
AggressivenessMore aggressive than Trumpeter SwansLess aggressive than Mute Swans

Mute Swans can be found in various countries including the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, and North America. Trumpeter Swans, on the other hand, are primarily found in North America, particularly in Alaska and Canada, but also in the United States, including the Great Lakes region and the Pacific Northwest.

Additionally, Trumpeter Swans lay fewer eggs than Mute Swans, and they have a straight, pointed bill compared to the prominent knob on the bill of the Mute Swan. Finally, while some populations of Mute Swans are migratory, Trumpeter Swans are known for their annual migratory habits.

Mute Swans are known to be more aggressive than Trumpeter Swans, especially during the breeding season when they are defending their nesting territory. Mute Swans are protective of their young and can be very aggressive toward any perceived threats, including humans and other wildlife.

They are known to chase and attack perceived threats, using their wings and powerful beaks to defend themselves and their young. However, outside of the breeding season, Mute Swans are generally less aggressive.

In contrast, Trumpeter Swans are less aggressive than Mute Swans and are known for their gentle nature. They are generally tolerant of humans and other wildlife, and even during the breeding season, they are less likely to attack humans or other wildlife unless provoked.

However, like all wild animals, they should still be approached with caution and given plenty of space to avoid any potential conflicts. Overall, while both Mute Swans and Trumpeter Swans have the potential to be aggressive, Mute Swans are generally considered to be more aggressive than Trumpeter Swans.

Mute Swan Overview

The mute swan is native to Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. It has a stocky body, a long neck, and black legs. The female will be smaller than the male. In addition to being large and beautiful, mute swans are also one of the most aggressive types of waterfowl in terms of defending their territory.

They will aggressively hiss and flap their wings when threatened or approached by humans or animals that they deem as intruders. Mute swans are omnivores; they eat vegetable matter like grasses, roots, tubers, bark, seeds, and grain alongside small invertebrates such as worms and insects. These birds prefer shallow freshwater ponds with luscious green vegetation on its banks for nesting sites.

The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan
mute swan

Mute Swan Facts

The mute swan is a white bird that can be found on both sides of the Atlantic. They are native to much of Europe and North America, as well as northern Africa and Asia. Unlike other types of waterfowl, mute swans prefer to live by ponds and rivers.

In fact, they will seldom leave the water if food is available on land. For this reason, they typically nest in colonies near watery habitats. Mute swans are one of the largest types of waterfowl.

They have long necks and paddle-shaped webbed feet with which they can swim gracefully across the surface of the water or walk powerfully along the shoreline. That’s not all; mute swans also have a wingspan of up to six feet across!

The males weigh up to 12 pounds while females generally weigh between 8-10 pounds—though it’s worth noting that some mute swans can weigh up to 18 pounds when full-grown.

As far as coloration goes, these birds typically have white plumage with black wing tips that form an elegant pattern when seen from overhead. This species also has deep orange bills with what looks like two black eyespots located near their nostrils (known as “nares”).

What about their call? When you see a group of mute swans in flight, you may notice them making a deep “ooo-gaa-oo!” sound—their famous sound.

Mute Swan Behavior

The mute swan is less aggressive than the trumpeter variety and will more readily accept petting from a stranger. They are more likely to become attached to their family and may even start calling out for their owners when they are away.

Mute swans typically mate for life and both males and females take turns incubating eggs. However, it’s not uncommon for them to seek short-term companionship with another bird of the same species to care for their brood when one parent is away.

The mute swan has been classified as “near threatened” by the IUCN Red List, which means that its numbers have decreased by 50% in the past ten years; this makes it an excellent choice for those who want a pet that won’t endanger other local wildlife.

Trumpeter Swan Overview

The trumpeter swan is not just a pretty face. It’s also native to North America and its population is stable in that region. The word ‘trumpeter’ refers to the bird’s vocalization, which sounds like a trumpet.

In contrast, the mute swan is native to Europe and Asia and it has been introduced in Australia, Africa, and North America. Trumpeter swans are larger than the mute species; they are about 1 meter long with a wingspan of around 2 meters.

 That makes them one of the largest birds on the planet. They can weigh up to 16kg and have a wingspan that can reach 3 meters wide. Mute swans are smaller by comparison; they weigh about 7kg and have a wingspan that measures about 1 meter across.

The trumpeter swan also has a more pronounced head than its cousin, which has led some people to believe it’s less intelligent than other waterfowl species. But this couldn’t be further from the truth – studies have shown that both types of swans have an average IQ of 100-120! So don’t let their appearance fool you into thinking otherwise!

The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan
trumpeter swan

Trumpeter Swan Facts

The trumpeter swan is the largest waterfowl in North America. They can be recognized by their orange bill and yellowish-green legs, as well as their iridescent feathers on the head. This species is most commonly found in wetlands, rivers, and freshwater lakes.

However, they are also found in streams and tundra lakes of Alaska and Canada during the summer months. The trumpeter swan typically lives for about 15 years or more. One of the biggest differences between these two types of swans is that trumpeters are easily distinguishable from mute swans because of their coloring.

 Trumpeters have a vibrant bill color that makes them stand out from other waterfowls, while mute swans only have a light grey bill with a black tip. Mute swans on the other hand are identified by its white plumage; it has a reddish-brown neck and a dark gray bill with an almost black tip.

These birds are generally not aggressive and may appear to be timid at first glance; however, they can become aggressive if too much stress is put on them. Mute swan eggs hatch after 28 days while trumpeter eggs take up to 30 days to incubate before hatching into cygnets (baby swans).

Mute swan cygnets grow to be larger than trumpeter cygnets because they eat more food when young to help them grow quickly during their flightless period before they develop wings (

Trumpeter Swan Behavior

Trumpeter swans are native to North America, primarily inhabiting the Great Plains and Prairie regions. They are larger than mute swans and are often referred to as “the wildest of all birds.” Trumpeter swans build nests of reeds and line them with down or feathers in a marshy area closer to water than mute swans.

Their diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, though they also eat vegetation, insects, frogs, small mammals, and even small fish. Trumpeter swans have a distinctive call that is louder than the whistle of the mute swan.

 The trumpeter swan is more aggressive than other types of waterfowl but not always; they can also be non-aggressive in nature.

While this makes them desirable for those looking for an exotic pet that will not shy away from people as much as many other species do, it does lead to territorial behavior when multiple trumpeters come into contact with each other. This can include attacking other animals (including people) or attempting to steal food from humans if they feel threatened.

The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan: Plumage

Both the mute swan and Trumpeter Swan have a similar plumage pattern on their back. They both have black feathers, with a white neck and chest, and a black-and-white striped tail. Mute Swans and Trumpeter Swans are both stunning birds, but they differ in their plumage and overall appearance.

Mute Swans are known for their white feathers with an orange bill and black facial skin. They have a large, long neck and a prominent knob on the bill. Their feet and legs are black, and they have a wingspan of 6-7 feet. Mute Swans are one of the heaviest flying birds and are considered the largest of the swans.

Trumpeter Swans, on the other hand, have white plumage with a black bill and facial skin. They have a straight, pointed bill, which is longer than the bill of the Mute Swan. Their feet and legs are a grayish-black color.

Trumpeter Swans have a wingspan of 7-8 feet, making them one of the largest flying birds in North America. They have long, elegant neck, and their body is more streamlined than the Mute Swan. Trumpeter Swans are considered one of the most beautiful birds in North America, and their distinctive appearance makes them a popular sight among birdwatchers.

The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan: Conservation status

Mute Swans and Trumpeter Swans have different conservation statuses, with the former not being endangered, while the latter is listed as a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mute Swans are widespread and abundant in their native range, and their populations have been introduced to many other countries. However, in some areas, they are considered an invasive species, and their high numbers can cause issues with other waterfowl species and their habitats.

In contrast, Trumpeter Swans were hunted to near extinction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to their highly valued feathers and skins. Additionally, habitat loss, hunting, and lead poisoning have also contributed to their decline. However, conservation efforts have been successful in helping to restore their populations, including captive breeding programs and reintroduction efforts in areas where they were once extirpated. These efforts have led to an increase in their numbers, but they still face threats from habitat loss, pollution, and lead poisoning from the ingestion of lead fishing tackle.

Overall, while the Mute Swan is not currently listed as endangered, Trumpeter Swans are still considered a species of concern due to their past decline and ongoing threats. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the continued survival of these magnificent birds.


In conclusion, Mute Swans and Trumpeter Swans are two of the most beautiful and fascinating birds in the world. They both have their unique features, behavior, and ecological significance, making them important species to study and protect.

While they share some similarities, such as their monogamous mating behavior and reaching adulthood at 3-4 years, they also have distinct differences, such as their life span, body shape, wing span, plumage, and migration habits.

Despite the fact that Mute Swans are not currently listed as endangered, and Trumpeter Swans are listed as a species of “Least Concern,” they both face threats to their populations and habitats. Therefore, it is crucial to continue conservation efforts to ensure their survival and protect their populations from the impacts of climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and hunting. By working together to protect these magnificent birds, we can ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come.


What is a mute swan?

The mute swan is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been introduced in North America. It is a smaller species of swan that has a tawny beak and black feet. They can grow up to 5 feet tall with a wingspan of up to 7 feet on average.

What does the mute swan eat?

Mute swans are primarily herbivores, which means they only eat plant-based food sources. In fact, they have evolved to eat aquatic plants because their larger size prevents them from getting close enough to shore to graze on land plants.

How long do mute swans live?

Mute swans can live up to 20 years of age or more when taken care of properly and healthily. However, this lifespan will be shorter if they are not being fed the appropriate diet or are exposed to diseases that could shorten their life span significantly.

1 thought on “The Mute Swan vs Trumpeter Swan”

  1. I found your article of great interest, but I didn’t notice anything about cross breeding of Mute and Trumpeter swans.

    We live on a small fishing lake in Indiana called Story Lake. Until last year, our resident pair of Mute swans had clutches almost every year going back at least 30 years, possibly as much as 35 by some accounts. March of 2022 we lost “Mama Swanson” leaving “Buddy – a.k.a. Big Daddy Swanson” alone on the lake. Last spring a number of Trumpeter swans came to the lake and one young female, I call “Ivanka Trumpeter” hung around. Although several Trumpeters came and went throughout the summer, she stayed her with Buddy.

    In late February 2023, Buddy and Ivanka returned when the ice left bringing open water. Two weeks ago, it became apparent that the two were building a nest, and last night I confirmed that she is sitting on a new nest. It appears that we have a rare mating of a Mute and Trumpeter swan in the making.

    I can’t help but wonder what the characteristics the resulting cygnets would present: orange or black beaks for instance. We’re so excited to see what the pairing of an old Mute swan and a young Trumpeter might produce. (I have a story with pictures on our Facebook page.)


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