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Swans are the largest and the heaviest living water birds that can fly a great distance when need be. They have long thin necks curved majestically with white feathers distributed evenly across their bodies. They are large, measuring from 56—62 inches in size (length) and weighing roughly 30 lbs.
Typically you will not find them shuffling about in your neighborhood, and if you do, then there’s someone in the area they belong to. Because swans are not the type to lurk around in urban areas, they prefer larger fields with much larger water bodies because it best suits their size and nature.
Several species of swans can be found across different continents. They spread across the Northern Hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South America, United States, and North America. However, swans are not often seen in urban areas; they like spacious fields with large water bodies.
SWAN REGION-WISE DISTRIBUTION
There are roughly eight known species of swan found worldwide, among which many of them are spread across different continents and regions that best suit their needs. No swans are natively found in Asia, Central America, or Africa. Swans can be found in the following countries:
- North America
- South America
- United Kingdom
All the magnificent swans’ species are spread far and wide across several regions. Australia, for example, has a few species inhabiting some areas in the wild. The black swan is one of the most common and predominantly occurring species found in Australia.
This species has an extremely large range, with a global population of about 100,000 to 1,000,000 individual swans across the globe. Their population pattern is stable, and they’re not at the risk of being endangered anytime soon.
Black swans are found in the southern region, inhabiting most southeastern and southwestern Australia, including Tasmania and north of Queensland and Port Headland towards Western Australia. They’re found almost everywhere in Australia, except for the Cape York Peninsula.
Another swan species found in Australia is the white swan. They’re not native to Australia but were introduced by British colonists to Australia during the 19th century. They’re primarily found in Western Australia, specifically in Northam.
Just like how black swans are found in most parts of Australia, they also populate parts of New Zealand. Although black swans are not seen as often in recent years, they still are scattered throughout the country.
There exists a subspecies of the Australian black swan, which is now referred to as the ancient black swan (Cygnus atratus sumnerensis). It was initially considered a separate species based on its physical features like longer legs, shorter wings, and large bodies.
It is said that human colonization led to the decline of Ancient Black Swans—these birds used to be bigger and taller than the average black swan species found in Australia. Still, they were hunted quite a lot which resulted in their extinction. After this, they were deliberately reintroduced in New Zealand from Melbourne.
You can also come across white or mute swans; their population in the region is estimated to be close to 100. But these swans have shown a decreasing population pattern over the past years as there are quite a few predators and disease outbreaks among them.
There are about three species currently found in North America. The Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, and the Mute Swan. Two of the world’s six swan species breed in the U.S: Trumpeter and Tundra. Whooper is a visitor but a rare one; they only visit western Alaska but that too inconsistently.
Another species that has established itself in some parts of Florida, Great Lakes, and northeast is the mute swan and the Australian black swan. These two species of swans were introduced in America by colonialists who wanted to add to America’s overall beauty and aesthetic.
These swans may be found in marshes and open water bodies like lakes or ponds dipping for vegetation and in agricultural fields and natural savannas consuming crops such as wheat and vegetables and native grasses.
One of the largest species of waterfowl found in South American regions is the Coscoroba Swan, one of the smallest swan species. Another species found in South America is the black-necked swan; both these birds’ ranges overlap.
There are about 10,000 mature black-necked swans recorded so far, and their population seems to look relatively stable. Similarly, there are about 10,000 to 25,000 individual Coscoroba Swans found across the globe.
Both these birds inhabit areas with swamps, marshlands, lakes, lagoons, ponds, and other freshwater bodies that act as a source of food for these swans.
They mostly inhabit and breed in Falkland Islands, Northern Paraguay, Argentina, Central Chile, and Southern Brazil. Coscoroba Swans and black-necked swans prefer to reside in coastal and lowland areas that ideally have large water bodies like lakes and ponds.
The United Kingdom
Three species of swan inhabit the U.K.: mute, whooper, and Bewick’s swan. Mute swans stay in the U.K. all year round, whereas the other two, Bewick’s and Whooper, travel hundreds and thousands of miles between their summer breeding grounds and the warmth of the U.K.
Among the three species mentioned above, the mute swan is one of the most widespread species across the U.K and is a year-round resident. The other two usually migrate to the U.K. every year and travel a good distance to get there. They switch between their breeding ground in the high arctic to the U.K. almost every year.
Whistling swans are migratory swan species that travel from Siberia to the UK during winters.
Habitat of Swans
Almost all the species of swan rely heavily on large water bodies and vast fields of grass and crops in their environment. They live in different environments, especially those habitats that allow them to access fresh bodies of water like lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, marshes, and other water beds.
They usually prefer living near water bodies because they get most of their food from the lakes and ponds they swim in. In addition, their diet is mostly plant-based, and the grass they consume is conveniently found in water beds.
Why Do Swans Migrate?
Swans migrate to avoid harsh weather conditions and escape from a bad living environment since they can thrive only in areas with large water bodies, fewer threats, and more land for them to walk on.
Another reason why they migrate is to find food. At times, they exhaust all the food sources in their areas, which pushes them to migrate to another region where the food sources are abundant.
The region’s remoteness likewise protects their young. Other birds are also drawn to the area because of the safety and plenty of food.
Most of the bird species partake in the process of migration. Their reasons may vary, but it is not something that we’re not familiar with. Out of 650 bird species, about 520 of them that reside in the U.S which migrate towards the south.
Some Fun Facts about Swans
Here’s a list of some informative and intriguing fun facts about swans.
Swans Are Found In Temperate Environments
Swans prefer inhabiting regions that fall in the temperate region mainly because the seasonal changes are more distinct and suitable for them. The temperature in the temperate region does not fall below -3 degrees Celsius, which is perfect for these birds’ survival.
These birds also inhabit regions with oceanic climates as these climates have cool summers and cool winters which don’t get too cold. These climates are moderate in comparison to other temperate climatic regions. Regions with this climate include North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Swans Are Migratory Birds
Several species of swans migrate when the weather is unfavorable or there aren’t enough food resources in the area they currently inhabit. Following is the list of swans that migrate.
Mute Swan: Mute swan is not entirely migratory; they reside in areas of Western Europe and are wholly migratory in Asia and Eastern Europe.
The Whooper Swan: This swan is wholly migratory, traveling from Siberia to the U.K, especially during the winter when the weather is cold and harsh.
Bewick’s Swan: This swan, just like the whooper swan, migrates to the U.K from Siberia during winters.
Tundra Swan: Tundra swan family groups merge to migrate towards the south. They breed in the Arctic, and during winter, they travel about 4000 miles towards North America’s Atlantic and Pacific lakes, bays, and shores.
Trumpeter Swan: Northern trumpeter swans move southwards in late fall as the water bodies in the northern regions begin to freeze. They move from Alaska and Canada to Northwest and British Columbia.
Swans Form Monogamous Bonds
Swans have long been a symbol of love, trust, and loyalty. This is so because swans form monogamous bonds that last for years and sometimes even for life. Swans, especially mute swans, are observed spending time with the same mate they formed a pair with.
In some unfortunate circumstances, they part ways or go through a phase of divorce. This is usually observed following nesting failure, where the nest is either destroyed, or the swans fail to build a better nest for their eggs.
Another reason why a swan might move on and find another partner is when one of the mates dies. Swans will take that as a cue to move on and find another swan to form a bond with.
Swans Have a Great Hearing Ability
Swans have ears, but not in the sense that you might imagine. Their ears are far more different than ours; instead of having a conventional ear with three major parts: outer, middle, and inner ear present, swans have a small opening.
They have funnel-like openings located on either side of their cheeks. These openings are covered with specialized auricular feathers that shield the ear while reducing the noise produced by wind.
For humans and mammals, the outer ear structure helps them absorb and diffract sound rays, which helps them determine where the sound is coming from, but in birds, since the structure is absent, they have another way of making it all work.
Birds have a unique ability to identify and locate where the sound is coming from. A study shows that a swan’s head shape aids in the entire hearing process!
Trumpeter Swans were Almost Hinted to Extinction
Trumpeter swans have long been hunted for their meat, feathers, and skin as their size and magnificent feathers caught market hunters’ attention back in the early 19th century from 1978 to 1990, driven to near extinction till conservation attempts were made later in the late 1990s to save the bird.
Although trumpeter swans are well protected by the Bird Migratory Bird Treaty Act but not in all of the states of the U.S., These swans are still vulnerable to illegal shootings and predators like raccoons, minks, horned owls, and snapping turtles that destroy their eggs.
Swans are among the most exquisite waterbird species found across Australia, New Zealand, the U.K, South America, and North America. They’re also found in some parts of Africa, but since they’re not sighted there often, Africa is excluded.
Swans have long been associated with love and beauty; some species were introduced in America and Australia by colonists traveling from the U.K to decorate their central parks and elite neighborhoods.
To sum it up, if you’re on the lookout for swans and want to sight one either waddling around, swimming, or flying, you can check out the regions mentioned above where they are scattered in abundance.
If you want to read more about the habitat of other interestingly large birds, read through this post to explore about Emu’s, where do they live, their habitat, and more.
Are you wondering where the second largest bird in the world lives? Interestingly, they can only be found in Australia, where they are prevalent!
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David 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!