Wildlife photography of a pair of Trumpeter Cranes lifting off in golden sunrise from the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park

In the misty golden sunrise of a Yellowstone January, a pair of Trumpeter Swans lift off of the Madison River for parts unknown. These graceful, long-lived beauties are the largest and heaviest of North American flighted birds, weighing in at 20-30 pounds. These majestic swans mate for life, and were at one point pushed to near-extinction with the settlement of the American West. But with protection, their population increased and today they have achieved “Least Concerned” conservation status.

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