Historic trumpeter swan Solo returns

SPOKANE -- Solo is back.

The elegant trumpeter swan is likely the elder seasonal wildlife resident at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, and one of the oldest documented anywhere among his endangered species.

For decades, Solo -- as a few observers have come to call him -- has returned each spring to Turnbull.

He's flown high with the success of raising a family -- the last in 1988 -- and suffered the lows of losing several mates.

But Turnbull continues to be his home as soon as the ice comes off in March and he stays until freeze-up.

He returned this year during the first week of March.

Although a recent big chill sent him packing, possible to open waters of the Spokane River, he was back within days.

Refuge biologists suspect Solo winters fairly close to the refuge, since he has always returned at the first hint of open water, flying up the creek near the refuge headquarters trumpeting away as if to say, "I'm baaack!"

Banding studies have documented Solo to be at least 29 years old.

He was banded in 1983 and recorded as a bird that was at least 3 years old.

But refuge biologist Mike Rule said there's a chance Solo could be one of the first trumpeters introduced to the refuge as cygnets.

Records show that six hand-reared cygnets were raised at Turnbull in an endangered species recovery effort in 1963.

Another 11 cygnets were brought to the refuge in 1965 and 20 were released there in 1966.

Turnbull's first successful trumpeter swan nesting was documented in 1967.

Solo fathered numerous broods at Turnbull until his mate as killed by a predator on her Winslow Pool nesting island in 1988.

Trumpeter Swans mate for life and generally live 20-30 years.

If one member of a pair dies, the survivor usually finds another mate.

A cob usually replaces its lost mate with a younger pen and returns to the former nesting territory.

When a pen re-mates, it also returns to its former nesting territory.

"He's been back every year, several times with females, but there's never been another successful nesting," Rule said, noting that it's possible the senior swan is simply too old to sire more young.

Indeed, if Solo's one of the original Turnbull cygnets, he could be on the verge of 46.