The spectacular swans are synonymous with beauty, elegance, and tranquility, adding extravagant ornamentation to the lakes, streams, and parks. The majestic creatures paddle elegantly with their webbed feet in the water or sometimes are seen serenely strolling down the lakes, bestowing the terrain with their graceful beauty.
The beautiful waterfowl birds are one of the most incredible species and phenomenal creations of nature. However, there is much more to learn about the stunning birds than their graceful appearance, which goes way beyond the childhood cliché tales we’ve heard, such as the Ugly Duckling and the Trumpet of Swan.
Swans are known for their longevity, having a long lifespan. The devoted birds form monogamous bonds with their mates, exhibiting an alluring courtship display with their necks intertwined into a heart shape. One of the largest waterfowl birds, dwelling in water bodies, they have impressive flight capacities.
Watching the swans swiftly pedal through the pond is a breathtaking view. Swans are incredibly interesting species, from their elegant white plumage to their faithfulness to their mates and boisterous honks.
Read ahead to learn about some of the mind-blowing swan facts!
The elegant swans with their long necks are the largest waterfowl animals belonging to the Antidae family. If you’ve seen a swan, you’ll know how massive it looks.
These gigantic birds have an astoundingly large size, exceeding 1.5 meters (59-60 inches) in length, and weigh over 15 kg.
Despite their hefty built, swans are adept aviators, gliding rapidly in the air. The wingspan of these oversized birds can reach up to 10 feet (3.1 meters). When in flight, they can fly up to incredibly high speeds of 95km/hr. However, most swans fly at an average speed of 30-50 km/hr.
If you ever observe a bevy of swans in flight, notice how they make a breathtaking V-shaped formation.
The diet of swans primarily comprises of aquatic vegetation found on the surfaces of lakes and river beds. The long, s-shaped neck of the bird is well adapted to let the bird feed on the plants growing on the water bodies as it serenely swims and pedals around.
Dabbling in the water, the swan flips itself upside down to reach the vegetation at the bottom of the surface with its long neck.
Swans can also forage on the grains such as wheat and maize and graze on the grass in the fields.
However, their diet is not only confined to plants. Small creatures such as mollusks, worms, and even fish and frogs serve as a good source of nutrition for sophisticated birds.
Here’s a wholesome feed to raise healthy, domesticated swans.
As soon as the swans become mature, they find a mating partner for themselves. Swans usually form monogamous bonds, staying devoted to the same partner for the entire life and producing multiple offspring together.
Carrying out courtship with their mate, the two are now really bonded for life – a trend not too ubiquitous in the bird kingdom.
Though some devious individuals might engage in promiscuous behavior, the bird’s faithfulness to its partner is exemplary. Unfortunately, divorce does sometimes occur due to nesting or breeding failure.
DID YOU KNOW?
The divorce rate of swans has been estimated to be around 6%.
Once bonded, the pair would remain together for the entire year, usually spending the first year building a nest. After that, they would spend their lives raising young cygnets year after year as the two learn together from their experiences and mistakes.
The courtship of swans is an incredibly alluring sight to look at. Two gracefully ravishing birds tufted with white feathers fluffed up to impress their partner create an ever-lasting bond.
Swans have around 25000 feathers on their body!
Bonding together, they carry out a series of splendid courtship rituals such as head bobbing, synchronized swimming, invigorating dancing, and trumpeting loudly. Two swans are even known to engage in kissing by touching the tips of their long beaks.
As they bow to each other, with wings raised, their long curved necks entwined together, make a stunningly perfect love heart - an exemplary sign of love!
All three of these waterfowl species are members of the Anatidae family that primarily comprises aquatic birds. Having a dense cosmopolitan population around the globe, these species dwell on water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds, estuaries, and marshes.
Like swans, their ducks and geese cousins have similar features, including webbed feet and broad fat bills, making them well adapted to survive on land and water.
In terms of their body size, Swans are the largest of them all. However, geese are relatively smaller than swans, while ducks are smaller than both geese and swans.
Quite adaptable to their surroundings, swans are a gregarious and sociable species. Following their close interaction with only their mates during the breeding season, they are colonial for the rest of the year, congregating in large numbers with other swans.
These same swans become extremely territorial during the breeding season, chasing away anyone who intrudes on their territory.
Even during the migratory season, they’re found in flocks of 100 or even more. So whether you spot them on the lake or soaring in the sky, you’re likely to observe a number of them clung together.
You would want to feed some bread to the swans paddling in the nearby lake in all goodwill. However, if you’re feeding swans, make sure you provide them fresh bread. Bread with mold or fungus can be poisonous to these species and may cause more harm than good.
Other foods can be fed to swans, including wheat, corn, and fresh green vegetables like lettuce and spinach.
Whenever food is fed to swans, it should be tossed on the surface of the water body. Swans like to have their food wet as it makes swallowing easy for them, taking in water along with the scattered food.
Feeding them on land can be dangerous for the swans, exposing them to environmental dangers such as humans, cars, rocky surfaces, and predators around.
Have you ever seen a swan with one leg folded, as it manages to stand on just one leg? Wondering if the swan is uniped or has it been amputated?
Well, none of the above is the case. Swans are capable of folding one leg up on their back and stand on one leg. To the swan, it’s pretty standard; like for us, crossing our legs is a general practice.
Swans use the large surface area of their foot and leg to absorb heat from the surroundings when necessary to maintain the optimal body temperature.
Highly territorial birds, especially in the breeding season, swans prefer to have distinct territories. Exhibiting their utmost aggressiveness during this time, they would not allow any other pair to take over or even share their territory.
It can be problematic if two couples end up in one territory, leading to disparities and a sinister conflict. The winning pair chases away the other one by fiercely hissing and flapping their wings. The defeated couple now has to look for another ‘patch’ to create its nest.
Belonging to the genus Cygnus, swans are members of the Antidae family. In the past, numerous species of swans had been recognized, many of which are now extinct. However, there are six living species of swans lodging in North America, Canada, and across Europe.
These species include Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Bewick’s Swan, and Black Swan.
In rare instances, one mating pair might die or disappear from the site, leaving the nest unattended. The other partner then has to take care of the nest and incubate the eggs entirely.
Both the pen and cob are capable enough to incubate the eggs independently and even raise their cygnets alone without the partner.
A nesting swan is quite pitied upon if the male partner dies or runs away, leaving her alone.
Female swans, well aware of the food shortage that might arise during incubation, feast well before the nesting period so that they do not have to starve. Since it is hard for them to find food during this period, they usually lose weight.
Similarly, the male swan can also raise his cygnets alone.
The monogamous species, forming an intense bond with their mates, can produce eggs throughout their lives once they gain maturity.
The first year of the pair staying together, though, is the honeymoon period. After that, both the cob and pen build their nest together, but the female wouldn’t typically lay eggs.
The cycle of producing offspring begins from the following year. As the couple gets older, the number of eggs produced in each clutch tends to reduce.
Both the male and female juvenile swans look quite alike, with no noticeable difference in their features. Telling their gender apart is only possible by veterinary examination.Swans-swimming-with-cygnets
As they grow mature, which usually happens at the age of 4, you’ll notice apparent differences in the size of the two. Male swans are relatively bigger in size than their female mates.
Minor variations exist among the various species. For example, in mute swans, the male has a larger black fleshy knob at the base of the beak than the female.
As majestic as the bird looks coated with snowy white feathers, protruding orange beak surrounded by a black mask, the Mute Swan is not native to North America. Instead, to many, it is an invasive species that found its way into America from Europe.
Now dwelling in the local water bodies, their existence poses a threat to the native waterfowl as the massive birds have encroached their habitat and fed on their food.
Back in the 1900s, the Trumpeter swans, a native species to North America, faced a tremendous loss of habitat as American inhabitants took away vast proportions of their territory.
There came the point when only countable numbers of the swans were left. Since then, persistent conversation efforts have been made to protect the species, gradually rebounding them in their protected regions. Today, their numbers have risen once again.
The mating pairs of swans construct their nest on land, typically on the water bay or edges of the water body.
Swans use nesting materials such as dried grass and twigs, varied vegetation, sticks, leaves, and even feathers to create a cup-shaped structure, with the eggs to be laid on the surface of the depression. The nest has a firm foundation of aquatic vegetation, often lined with feathers.
The pen and cob actively build their nest, fetching the material and then shaping it meticulously with their long bills.
Both the parent swans are not just possessive about their territory. Still, they guard their young against any threats, exhibiting aggression and anger if someone tries to intrude on their territory.
The massive birds would become boisterous with highly vocalized hissings, flapping their heavy wings and swimming rapidly towards the rival to ward off the attack.
After successfully scaring off the contender, the mighty swans would flutter their wings, calling to announce their triumph and celebration.
After leaving the nests of their parents, the cygnets join a flock of similar swans. These juvenile swans, who have not yet developed their snowy white feathers, are usually dusky brown-gray overall, with a grey-black bill.
Spending their time floating around on the water surface or strolling on the land with their webbed feet, these young swans live with their flock until they become mature.
By the time they’re around four years old, these swans are turned into an epitome of elegance and set to find a mating partner for themselves. It now heads off to find its territory with its mate.
Swans enjoy longevity, having an average life expectancy of almost 20 years. However, there are slight variations in the average lifespan of swans depending on the environment they live in and the species they belong to.
The mute swan can live for almost 18-20 years, the Black swan for 40 years, while the trumpeter swan can survive for around 24 years in the wild.
However, swans living in captivity can live for even longer. One Trumpeter swan has been recorded to stay alive for 35 years. Living in protected environments, the swans are safe from the hazard and risks of living in the wild.
Read our post to explore all about the long life span of swans.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first three to four years of a young swan's life are crucial. Unfortunately, young cygnets have a high mortality rate, and many die during the nestling stage and before they reach maturity.
These cygnets are vulnerable to predatory attacks and other environmental hazards such as power line collisions and harmful lead ammunition ingesting.
The most giant waterfowl birds feed on aquatic plants such as pondweed, algae, waterweed, and musk grass. Swans also enjoy appetizing treats of fish, frogs, worms, etc.
Synonymous to their massive size, they have a huge appetite as well. In fact, according to a study, swans can consume 8 pounds of food each day - that’s walloping!
Dating back to the 12th century, the Queen of England has claimed to own all the mute swans across Britain.
The ceremony of counting the swans - known as Swan Upping - takes place each year in the third week of July, lasting five days. There’s a reason for the ceremony happening during this time. The adult birds are molting while the cygnets are too small to take flight, making the process easier.
Even though the Queen is granted ownership of all the Mute Swans across the river, what’s surprising is that she isn’t physically present to brace the ceremony with her honor.
Signifying elegance, love, and calmness, catching sight of these beautiful creatures is mesmerizing. But what may not be too apparent about them is their aggressive nature and viciously loud honks.
Those who have had an encounter with swans might know that they can be frightening.
Some people are scared of swans. This unwarranted fear of swans is known as cynophobia or kiknophobia.
The long-necked swans are one of the largest birds dwelling in water, an epitome of grace, beauty, and devotion.
From exhibiting utmost sociability, floating around in large flocks to becoming intensely territorial during the breeding season, the swan depicts an exciting personality, leaving us in complete awe.
Among the many species these birds have, what might leave you flabbergasted is the Black Swan. Read our post to find more about the different colored swans.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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