STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: Europe to West Asia
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Mute swans are one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. Adults can weigh over thirty-three pounds. These swans have a very long neck, white plumage and an orange bill with a black knob on top. Males and females are similar in appearance with the males being slightly larger with a more prominent knob on their bill. Their long neck, coloration and sheer size make these swans easily recognizable.
Contrary to their name, the mute swan can make a range of vocalizations, including a rumbling and an aggressive hiss when threatened.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Mute swans feed by upending, or dabbling, tipping head first into the water so that the tail remains visible above the surface.
Unlike other swan species, mute swans are very territorial and disputes may result in aggressive fights between males. They do this by rushing at each other and sliding along the surface of the water. Due to this behavior, mute swans like to nest in solitary areas.
Mating pairs form when the swans are around two years of age, and are monogamous. The swans do a courtship dance, which consists of them facing each other and turning their heads from side to side in unison. They nest on large mounds that the pair build together with waterside vegetation in a shallow area or on islands in the middle of a lake. Often the pair will use the same nest year after year and will take time to rebuild it as needed. The female lays five to seven whitish eggs, sometimes up to twelve, around April. The eggs incubate thirty-five to forty-two days.
Both parents care for the cygnets, and sometimes they are carried on the backs of both parents. The Cygnets will stay with their parents through the first winter before going off on their own.
Found throughout Europe, the mute swan is absent from high elevations and areas without fresh water. After 1960, the population began to decline as a result of poisoning from lead fishing weights. Since the mid-1980s and the banning of lead weights, the population has increased. Outside of Europe, the mute swan is known through central Asia and has also been introduced to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and North America.
The mute swan is found in a wide range of habitats, including rivers, lakes, ponds, reservoirs, floodwaters, and sheltered coasts.
These swans chiefly feed on submerged aquatic vegetation. They will also feed in fields of young cereal crops.