Animal of the Month
HABITAT AND RANGE
The mute swan is a native of northern and central Eurasia. In the late 1800s, they were introduced into North America to live in ponds of parks and estates. Some escaped and established breeding populations in several different areas. They prefer to live in shallow coastal ponds, estuaries, bogs, and streams flowing into lakes.
Mute swans are large and all white. They have a long, curved neck with an orange bill and a black face. Males and females look very much alike. Only during breeding season is there a noticeable difference when the black knob at the base of the male’s bill swells and becomes much larger than the female’s.
Mute swans enjoy eating aquatic plants as well as some aquatic animals. They consume about 4-8 pounds of vegetation daily. They will ‘tip-up’ to reach submerged aquatic vegetation (dip their head and upper half of body below water surface, tail directly up in the air).
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Mute swans mate for life. They become sexually mature at 2 years of age. The nesting period is late March to April. They build a nest in a large mound of aquatic vegetation and grasses, lined with a little down. The nest is 4-5 feet across. They lay up to 11 blue green eggs that will turn white and then brown with staining; on average, they lay 6 eggs. They hatch 35 days after the last egg is laid. The young are called cygnets and they come in 2 color morphs: grey or white. The grey chicks, which are called royal chicks, start off with grey down and grow in grey-brown and white feathers. Royal chicks have a mottled color. The white chicks, which are called polish chicks, have all white down and juvenal feathers. Cygnets will leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and will have the ability to swim and feed.