Mute Swan Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The mute swan (Cygnus olor) is one of the heaviest of flying birds and it is prominent by its pure white plumage. It is found all over the Britain, Eurasia, to as far as China and New Zealand. In fantasy stories, mute swans are often pictured as silent gentle bird but in reality these birds are aggressive can cause injuries if provoked.

Mute Swan Facts 

Anatomy

  • The mute swan is a powerful bird that weighs up to 15.5 – 31 lbs. The male swan is known as cobs. Male swans average 10.6 to 11.87 kg (23.4 to 26.2 lb) in weight while females weigh up to 8.5 to 9.67 kg (18.7 to 21.3 lb).
  • The adult mute swans are 140 to 160 cm (55 to 63 in) long.
  • The wing span measures around 200 to 240 cm (79 to 94 in) and the bill is 6.9–9 cm (2.7–3.5 in) in length.
  • Mute swan takes on the bright white plumage in the first two years of birth.
  • They have got broad webbed feet which allow the swan to swim efficiently. However they are clumsy when it comes to walking on land.
  • Thanks to the long neck, mute swans can get to the bottom-dwelling plants while keeping its tail exposed out of water.
  • Unlike females, males have large black knob and it grows even bigger during the breeding season. They do so in order to attract the female.
  • Mute swans have 10–11.8 cm (3.9–4.6 in) long tarsus.
  • They have orange bill which is tough and has got serrated edges. These edges help the bird to select food particles from the water surface.
  • Female mute swans are known as pens.
  • The heaviest mute swan ever weighed is 23 kg (51 lb) of a cob.
  • Young swans are not bright white—these young are called cygnets.
  • Females are slightly smaller than males.
Mute Swan followed by cygnets ©shropshirebirder.co.uk
Mute Swan followed by cygnets ©shropshirebirder.co.uk

Distribution

  • Mute swans the native birds of Eurasia—they fly all across the Britain and China. Some of the species have been introduced in the North America.
  • They are also found in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
  • Mute swans are distributed throughout the Russian Maritimes adjacent to Sidemi.
  • The bird is a partial migratory species as it travels to Asia and Europe, as well as the Mediterranean and North Africa.
  • UN Environmental Programme suggests that the mute swan is also observed nesting in Iceland and Bermuda.
  • Mute swans are vagrant to 16 countries.
  • Although birds are protected in much of its range they are nevertheless still hunted in large numbers.

Habitat

  • Mute swans are most likely to be found near large water-bodies such as lakes or middle reaches of lowland rivers but many population breeds in the wild habitats including coastal lagoons, marshes, and salty estuaries.
  • All these habitats are rich in aquatic vegetation and it supplies plenty of food.
  • An isolated population of mute swans is thought to live on industrial wastelands along visibly polluted areas.
  • Mute swans in general do not migrate but those living in the northern regions such as Scandinavia are likely to fly to temperate waters in winter.
  • They seem to prefer slow-moving water bodies.

Feeding Ecology and Diet

  • Mute swans are likely to feed on aquatic vegetation but they also prey insects, frogs, fish, and other aquatic life.
  • In estuaries, the swans will eat tender shoots of salt marsh grasses. They will crop the grass near lakes and rivers.
  • Their diet also consists of oilseed rape and wheat.
  • The mute swan spends most of its time on feeding because the food it eats doesn’t seem to offer many nutrients.
  • It rarely dives into the water for food.
  • The adult swan consumes 9 pounds of vegetation each day.
Mute Swan ©commons.wikimedia.org
Mute Swan ©commons.wikimedia.org

Behavior

  • The mute swan is not territorial except in breeding season when they become bad-tempered. Each of the nesting pair defends a small territory to drive away potential predators with snorts and hisses.
  • Unlike females, males are far more aggressive as they charge through water and raise their wings—a behavior to show anger.
  • There is a strange behavior in mute swans in that when they fail to drive away predators, two of them begin to fight. They beat each other with their large wings.
  • During winter, mute swans will gather around in large numbers to feed at one place.
  • They have a remarkable display of flight into the air and are able to reach a speed of 48 – 54 miles per hour.
  • On a still day the swan’s beating wings produce a loud sound which can be heard at a distance of about half a mile. The throbbing sound is so produced because the air penetrates through the bird’s feathers.
  • They form colonies which can be as large as consisting 10o pairs.
  • It is thought to be less vocal in comparison to the Bewick’s swans.

Reproductive Biology

  • Mute swans are monogamous creatures as they pair for life.
  • The mating occurs in spring when a pair nests in a reedbed.
  • They attain maturity at 3 years age.
  • Female swan lays 3 – 12 eggs but averages 5 – 7 eggs. All eggs hatch at one time.
  • The incubation period lasts about 36 days and the chicks will fledge out in 120 – 150 days. The female alone incubates the eggs while male looks after the female. Sometimes male can incubate eggs at night.
  • In about 13 weeks the chicks will take on grayish-brown plumage.
  • The birds learn to fly when they are 4 – 5 months old.
  • They have a breeding interval of one year.
  • The average lifespan of mute swans is up to 20 years.
  • Mute swan’s predators include felids, bears, coyotes, and lynxes. Sometimes they also fall prey to golden eagles.

Mute Swan Population

  • Currently there are 500,000 mute swans of which 350,000 are breeding in the former Soviet Union. Volga Delta hosts the maximum number of single breeding pairs around 11,000 in total.
  1. 22,000 (United Kingdom)
  2. 6,800 – 8,300 (Germany)
  3. 4,500 (Denmark)
  4. 4,000 – 4,200 (Poland)
  5. 3,000 – 4,000 (Netherlands)
  6. 1,200 – 1,700 (Ukraine)
  7. 2,500 (Ireland)

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