110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Mute swans aren’t really silent
By Lynn Bowen
posted May 27, 2014 - 12:19:03pm
Looking quite serene swimming in an Orange City pond, the beautiful white mute swan reigns over his territory. Originally from Europe and Asia, mute swans were introduced to North America in the late 19th century to beautify parks and ponds. Escapees have established a breeding population in a few parts of North America.
Mute swans are not really silent as their name seems to declare! They can lose their temper when provoked, and have a variety of calls. Sometimes they will show their disgust with a snort, grunt or hiss! However, they are less vocal than some others, including whooper swans and Bewick’s swans.
When a mute swan raises its wings halfway up, it is displaying an aggressive posture called “busking.” In the photo accompanying this column, a swan is showing this posture halfheartedly, and he doesn’t appear to be upset.
Fifty to 67 inches tall, with an impressive 75-inch wingspan, this 22-pound white-plumed swan had an orange bill with a distinctive knob at the base, and black feet and legs. The swan in my photo has a pale-yellow-colored neck and head. Also, the long neck and vivid black at the base of the bill are distinguishing features. The males are larger than the females, but otherwise they look alike.
Mute swans breed between 3 and 5 years of age. They usually mate for life, but not always.
The female lays about six eggs annually from March to April in a large 4- to 5-foot floating nest or on the shore. She and her mate construct the nest, and both incubate the eggs for 35 days. Usually only three babies survive, due to starvation and disease.
They consume 4-8 pounds of seeds and roots of water plants daily. They also eat insects, fish and frogs. Because of the swans’ huge appetites, submerged vegetation that other waterfowls need to survive is severely reduced.
Swans present problems in many ways. They are a threat to humans since the swans are extremely aggressive. People need to keep an adequate distance from them and especially from their nests.
They endanger native wildlife as well, plus they destroy wetland habitat with their appetite. This, of course, has negative effects on waterfront property values and tourism.
Mute swans live an average of 19 years if they survive their first five years.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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