The Amazing Swan
The swan is a bird that symbolizes beauty, love, music and poetry.
The swan closely resembles the duck and the goose. The scientific name for the swan is Cygnus Atratus. Swans are amongst the most significant waterfowl species of the family Anatidae. Swans have long-necks, heavy-bodies big-feet and fly with their wings stretched.
A little bit more about Swans
Swans are the most abundant of waterfowl birds. A mature male swan is known as a cob while a mature female is a pen. Young swans are known as cygnets.
The largest species of swans can reach a length of 1.5 m and weigh up to 15 kg. The wing span can reach over 3.1 metres. Swans are larger than geese with large feet and necks. The males are bigger and heavier than the females.
The classification of waterfowl, indeed depends upon the number of cervical vertebrae they have. Ducks have, at most, 16 neck bones or vertebrae, geese have around 23 vertebrae and swans have at least 24 neck bones.
The majority of adult swans are white but vary in the bill color, shape of the head, body size and the way they produce sounds from their voices due to their varying shape of the trachea.
Types of Swans
There are about six types of swans namely:-
- black-necked swans
- trumpeter swan
- tundra swan (these include the Bewick and whistling swan)
- black swan
- mute swan
Black necked swan
The black-necked swan is an inhabitant of Westland in southern America. This charismatic bird is easily distinguishable by it’s white body that is different from its velvety black neck and head.
It’s length is about 124 cm and this swan weighs between 3.5 to 6.7 kg. The black-necked swan is the most significant water bird.
The black-necked swan has a long neck whilst its body rests on relatively short legs. It is a strong flier and can speed up to 50 miles per hour. However, it is not very mobile. While most swans are praised for their loud calls, the black-necked swan has a soft whistling note that is repeated often more often during flights.
Trumpeter swans are mostly found in North America and considered to be the largest living birds that are capable of flight native to North America. The trumpeter is the most significant waterfowl with it’s wings stretching over 10 feet.
The adult trumpeter swan may measure up to 165 cm long. A large male exceeds up to 180 cm. The weight of an average male ranges from 10.9 to 12.7 kg and from 9 to 10.4 kg in females. The adult trumpeter swan is white and, like the mute swan, they have light grey plumage with pink legs.
Like the whooper swan, this species have an upright posture and swim with a straight neck. The trumpeter is quite sensitive to human disturbance and almost became extinct in the early 20th century. Its comeback was considered a success ideology for the conservationist.
Commonly referred to as the ‘loud whooping’ the whooper swan is a visitor to Britain during winter. This giant white swan erects its neck while it swims. It weighs 9 to 11 kg with wings spanning up to 235 cm. The trumpeter has a long thin neck and black legs.
During courtship, this flamboyant bird pairs face one another with one side of the wing half lifted while the other wing is held in open position. The neck is extended as the birds loudly vocalize. Half of the beak is yellow whilst the rest of the beak is black. Some of the swans are grey.
You really do have a one track mind.
The Tundras migrate miles during winter to the lakes of North America. They fly up to 3725 miles in their habitats and make this journey twice each year. Mature tundra swans have a yellow spot in front of their eyes. They have a black bill. There is little difference between males and females.
Native to Eurasia is a less vocal swan thus the name mute. It measures up to 170 cm in length. This white bird with an orange beak is identified by its pronounced knob on top of the mandible.
Males are more significant than the females with a more robust knob on their bill. The mute swan is the most abundant waterfowl, after the trumpeter swan. The largest mute swan weighs around 14.3 kg. The largest ever weighed 23 kg.
Black swans breed mainly in the Southeast and Southwest of Australia. An adult black swan weighs up to 9 kg and measures up to 143 cm. their wing stretches to 2 metres. The neck is long and curved in an s shape. The black swan produces musical and far-reaching bugle-like sound.
Swans usually form lifelong pair bonds. They breed in the freshwater lake and along slow-flowing rivers with abundant established aquatic vegetation. Most swans find their mates during winter before the age of two years but breed from 3 to 7 years. However, some may nest for the first time when they are two years. The swans build their nests on elevated sites surrounded by water.
Partners construct new nests or use the previous nest from past years. The pair engages in courtship as soon as they arrive in their breeding territory. Nest building occurs between August and September and takes two weeks. The male is in charge of uprooting vegetation grasses and sedges and hands it to the female for piling while using her body to form a depression to place her eggs.
The female may start laying eggs before even the completing the nest. Eggs are laid on a daily basis until the clutch is complete. The female hutches the eggs for 36 days as the male protects their eggs against predators. Males, although rarely may help hatch the eggs. Occasionally the female leaves the nest during incubation for bathing and feeding. She covers the eggs with nesting material to conceal then while she is away.
Hatching usually occurs in October and early November. The eyes of the cygnets open within 24 hours, and within one day they can swim and dive underwater. In late September the young swans practice flying preparing for winter migration. Swans leave their breeding territories just before the winter freeze.
Swans are omnivorous but mostly feed on vegetables. They feed on water and land. At other times they feed on insects. In water, their diet is exclusively marginal plants, leaves, roots, aquatic animals or small fish. In freshwater, they feed on grass, weeds, tadpoles and milfoils. However, in saltwater, they consume eel grass, sea arrow grass, insects and green algae.
On land, they consume seeds, and grasses as well as grains left by farmers.
The swans do not dive for food in water, they dabble to reach their food. Also, their long neck enables them to reach well below the water surface. Their feet play an essential role while they feed. They regularly pump their feet up and down over the plants. This shakes off the mud and uproots them from the ground.
The annual migration of the swans thought the Arctic is a mystery human beings have less experience in explaining. Swans cover at least 4000 miles during their migration. The mighty Trumpeter and the Tundra the native of North America both migrate to the arctic purposeful for breeding and nesting.
The tundra swan set off from their wintering ground in the Atlantic states and North California through the whole month of February and arrive in southern Ontario in early March. The trumpeters make their way back to the north from Vancouver Island to the marsh lake in Canada every April. From there they continue to their final destination in Alaska.
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