03 Jan Retirees, vacationers and swans find winter home in Heber Springs
Each winter, Heber Springs becomes an Airbnb for creatures from the Midwest and Alaska.All ages of Trumpeter swans can be found on Magness Lake. Trumpeter swans are the heaviest and longest native birds of North America. Adult mails usually weigh 15 to 30-pounds and can have an 8-foot wingspan. Adults are solid white, except for their beaks and feet, and they make a very distinctive sound. The birds with more gray or brownish feathers are younger birds. As the famed “Ugly Duckling” story teaches, they become white as they get older.
The phenomenon started when three swans showed up on the lake in the winter of 1991. It’s believed they were the “pilgrims”. The following winter, a Minnesota swan, that had been banded, visited the lake with her mate and they were spotted the next year with three cygnets (baby swans). Since then, the numbers have fluctuated, but upwards of 150 swans have been on the lake.
It’s believed the original 3 got knocked off course by a storm. They must have liked what they found, because they came again and brought their friends.
If you want to see the swans yourself, just head out to Heber Springs now through the end of February. Drive east on AR Hwy. 110 from its intersection with Arkansas Hwys. 5 and 25, just east of Heber Springs. Go 3.9 miles from the intersection to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, marked with a white sign. Turn left on paved “Hays” Road (the sign is small.) Magness Lake is about a half-mile down. You can view the swans from a public road, with parking spaces available in an S curve.
Shelled corn is the only recommended feed and you can purchase it in town at some of the shops.The swans are best seen in the mid-afternoon to dusk hours. This is when they are on the lake. During the earlier parts of the day, they are sometimes off looking for food.