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Band Tales: Swan Song

A record-worthy North Carolina whistling swan band.

Band Tales: Swan Song

An ancient swan band was icing on the cake for this hunt. (Photo By: David Stimac)

Bob Tally is no novice when it comes to waterfowling around legendary Lake Mattamuskeet. As a youngster in the 1950s, he and his brother, John would accompany their father, at a time when Canada geese outnumbered ducks there. And he’s passed the tradition on to his nephews, Lockett and Jesse and their boys, Locke and Cowles, now roughly the same age Bob and John were on their first trips.

The Hunt

Bob, his nephews and their boys were all were present on a December day last fall and ducks and geese were the main fare. But Bob also held a coveted swan permit, though he wasn’t in any rush to use it. “More than a thousand of the big birds passed over our farm that day but I waited until 4 p.m. to take a shot,” he related. He chose the right bird in the end, with a band with a remarkable history.

The distance between initial banding and recovery—25 miles—was not particularly noteworthy, though it was banded in winter, before a long journey north to the breeding grounds. However, the band was well worn and when the Banding Lab questioned the band numbers, Bob suspected something special. The whistler was banded in 2000, and recorded to have hatched in 1998 or earlier, making it at least 23 years old!

According to the USGS Bird Banding Lab, the oldest whistling swan on record was 25 years, from Ohio. The next oldest was 23 years, banded in the Northwest Territories and recovered in North Carolina in 1972. It would seem they’ll be updating those records. Meanwhile, the fourth generation of Tallys will be carrying on the family’s waterfowling tradition.

The Band

BAND#: 0649-06138

HUNTER: Robert Tally

SPECIES: Whistling Swan (F)

BANDED: 02/10/2000

11 N of Pungo, NC




RECOVERED: 12/30/2021 

3.5 mi NNE of Rose Bay, NC

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