Geese Ducks and Swans: Anatidae
Mute Swan (cygnus Olor): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: This large, white bird weighs anywhere from 14.6 to 33 pounds (6.6 to 15 kilograms) and measures 4 to 5.3 feet (1.3 to 1.6 meters) in length. Its neck is S-shaped, and the bill is orange with a black base. Wingspan measures 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters). Males and females look alike except males are larger.
Geographic range: Found in central and northern Europe. The mute swan winters in northern Africa, the Near East, and to northwest India and Korea. It has been introduced into the United States.
Habitat: Mute swans require water with plenty of vegetation, such as lagoons, marshes, lakes, and canals.
Diet: Mute swans eat aquatic vegetation, including grass and seeds. They also feed on invertebrates, insects, aquatic worms, and small amphibians. Mute swans do not dive but reach under the water with their long necks and grab food.
Behavior and reproduction: Mute swans get their name for their silence. Only when they're mad will they hiss. This bird is territorial and will fight to the death to defend its home range, which can encompass up to 10 acres (4 hectares). Unlike most anatids, mute swans do not migrate in large flocks. Mute swans fly at a rate of 50 to 55 miles per hour (80.5 to 88.5 kilometers per hour).
Mute swans do not mate for life, but do usually maintain a pair bond for one breeding season. These birds build their large nests in March and April, and the nests are made of vegetation lined with feathers and down. Nests are built in the reeds surrounding water or on floating mats. Clutch size is usually five to seven eggs, sometimes as large as twelve. Incubation lasts thirty-six to thirty-eight days. Chicks (also called cygnets; SIG-nuts) are born with grayish-brown feathers that will turn white within twelve months. The tiny birds stay in the nest only for about an hour. Cygnets ride under parents' wings or on their backs. By the next mating season, parents chase away their young. Mute swans don't usually breed before the age of three years. They oldest known mute swan in the wild was nineteen years.
Mute swans and people: Mute swans have been known to knock down jet-skiiers, and they can be dangerous to small children. They will attack people who get too close to their nests. These birds were saved from extinction due to hunting in Britain when people began domesticating them. The mute swan is the most common swan and is often seen in parks. It is a symbol of love and purity.
Conservation status: Not threatened. In fact, the population of this swan is on the rise. ∎
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