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Mute Swan

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The majestic bird of Russia ballet and European stories is the exotic Mute Swan. This swan swims with its long neck bent into the S shape and also keeps its wings slightly above its back.

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While abundant and well known in city parks and bays and lakes in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, the Northeast and the Midatlantic, Mute Swans are not native to North America.

Mute swans were first brought to North America to decorate ponds and lakes in towns and cities. You will also find them in shallow wetlands, streams, rivers and estuaries within the dispersed range.

Scientific classification

  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Cygnus
  • Species: C. olor

Other Names

  • Cisne Vulgar (Spanish)
  • Cygne tuberculé (French)

Description

Adults of Mute Swan species typically range from 140 to 160 cm (55 to 63 in) in length, although they can range from 125 to 170 cm (49 to 67 in) in extreme cases with a wingspan of between 200 and 240 cm (79 to 94 in).

The males are larger than the females, and they have a larger knob on their bill. On average, this is the second-largest waterfowl species after the trumpet swan, although male mute swans can easily match or even exceed male trumpets in mass.

Young mute swans, called cygnet, are not the bright white of mature adults, and for the first year, their bill is dull, greyish-black. The down can vary from pure white to grey to buff, with the most common grey/buff.

The white swans have a leucistic gene. Cygnets grow rapidly, reaching a size close to their adult size in about three months after hatching.

Typically, Cygnets retain their grey feathers until they are at least one year old, with the down wings replaced by flight feathers earlier that year.

All mute swans are white at when mature, however, the feathers (especially on the head and neck) are often stained orange-brown with iron and tannins in the water.

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Behaviour

Mute swan on large mounds nest on islands on the middle or the edge of the lake with vegetation on the waterside. They are monogamous, reuse the same nest every year often, repair or rebuild it as appropriate.

Male and female swan share nest care, and it’s not uncommon to see whole families looking for food until the cygnets are blown off. They feed on a wide variety of vegetation, both submerged aquatic plants, and grass on the ground.

The food typically includes cropper plants like olive rape and wheat, and flocks may cause severe crop damage in winter by trampling their large webbed feet as well as by eating them directly.

Contrary to black swans, silent swans are usually extremely territorial, with only a pair on smaller lakes. Still, they may be colonial in a few areas that have an appropriate feeding environment.

The largest colonies are more than 100 pairs in the coastal waters of the Baltic Sea. They have nests spaced up as little as 2 meters (7 ft), including in the colonies at Abbotsbury Swannery in the south of England and the South of the Öland Island, Ottenby Preserve.

The River Tweed Estuary at Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northeastern England includes a notable voltage of non-breeding birds, and maximum counting is 787.

Near the Swan Lifeline Station in the village of Windsor, there is a large population living on the Thames, shadowed by the castle of Windsor.

When the younger people are mated, they look for their land and often live close to ducks and gulls, who benefit from the capacity of the swan to enter deep-water weeds, which seem to be on the surface of the water.

But they do produce a range of groaning, heckling, and snoring noises especially their cygnets, and generally hoist at rival rivals or intrusions that try to invade their territories.

The mute swan is less boisterous than the loud whooper and Bewick’s swans (a mute swan subtype). The most common sound associated with mute swans is the vivid throb of the flight wings, distinctly known to the species and which are heard over an area between 1 and 2 km (0.6 and 1 mi). 

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Mute swans will defend their nests very vigorously and protect their buddy highly. The most defensive strikes from a mute swan start from a loud hiss and, whether this is enough to frighten the attacker, are accompanied by a physical attack.

Swans strike by smashing at their opponent with bony spurs in the wings, followed by biting with their large bill, whereas smaller waterbirds such as ducks are usually caught with the swan’s bill and pulled or tossed of the swan or its offspring.

The cobs responsible for protecting the cygnets while on the water, and will often target small watercraft, such as canoes, that it feels poses a danger to its young.

The cob would also attempt to scare the predator off his family turf, keeping predators like foxes and raptors at bay, the most common cygnet predators are the snapping tortoises.

Healthy adults are rarely preyed on, although coyotes and bears may pose a threat to healthy adults who will typically swim away from danger unless they are protecting their nests. 

The familiar pose with curved back neck and half-edged wings, known as busking, is a danger display. During this display, both feet are paddled together, resulting in more jerky movement. Swans can also use the busking pose for wind-assisted transport over several hundred meters, so-called windsurfing.

Like other swans, mute swans are popular for their ability to grieve for a lost, dead mate or cygnet. Swans usually go through a mourning process and, in the event of the loss of their mate, they may either stay where their counterpart lived or fly off to join a flock. 

Reproduction

The mute swans lay between 4 and 10 eggs—female broods for about 36 days, with swans typically hatching between May and July. Young swans cannot fly until the age of 120 to 150 days.

This limits the distribution of the species at the northern edge of its range, as the swans need to learn to fly until the ponds and lakes freeze.

Habitats and ecosystem

A mute swan is normally found primarily in temperate areas of Europe, then across the Palearctic as far east as Primorsky Krai, near Sidemi.

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It is partly migratory across northern latitudes in Europe and Asia, as far south as North Africa and the Mediterranean.

It is recognized and reported to have nestled in Iceland. It is a wanderer in that region, as well as in Bermuda, according to the UN Environment Program Map of the International Status Chart of Bird Species, which places it in 70 countries, breeding in 49 countries, and wandering in 16 countries.

While most of Japan’s current population is imported, mute swans are depicted on scrolls. Natural migrants to Japan typically occur along with the Bewick swans.

The mute swan is protected to a large degree, but this has not stopped illegal hunting and poaching. It is also kept in captivity outside its natural range, as a decoration for parks and ponds, and escapes have occurred.

The offspring of such birds have been naturalized in the eastern United States and the Great Lakes, just as Canada’s goose has done in Europe.

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