Swans are birds of the family Anatidae within the genus Cygnus.
There are six to seven species of swan called the Black-necked Swan, Black Swan, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra swan which includes the Bewick’s Swan and Whistling Swan, and the Whooper Swan. In addition there is another species known as the coscoroba swan, although this species is no longer considered one of the true swans.
Often seen gliding across lakes, the swan has long represented elegance and refinement.
The swans are the largest members of the waterfowl family Anatidae, and are among the largest flying birds.
The largest species, including the mute swan, trumpeter swan, and whooper swan, can reach a length of over 1.5 meters (59 inches) and weigh over 15 kilograms (33 pounds). Their wingspans can be over 3.1 meters (10 feet).
Swans live for approximately 20 to 30 years. Some variations exist between the more common swan species. The trumpeter swan, which is the largest swan in North America, lives for an average of 24 years in the wild but has been known to live for 33 years in captivity. A mute swan lives for an average of 19 to 20 years; the tundra swan has a similar life span. The black swans of Australia and New Zealand, which have been introduced to North America and Europe, can live for up to 40 years in the wild.
The swan is found on both sides of the Equator across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The northern swan is generally white in color with an orange beak and the southern swan tends to be a mixture of white and black in color with red, orange or black beaks.
The swans are generally found in temperate environments, rarely occurring in the tropics.
Swans are herbivores. Swans feed primarily on aquatic vegetation, with their long necks allowing them to feed on plants growing on river beds. They also eat small creatures such as molluscs that cling to the vegetation, and small fish, frogs and worms. Swans also will graze in fields, eating grass if it is available.
Several species are migratory or partly migratory, while some populations are resident.The Mute Swan is a partial migrant, being resident over areas of Western Europe but wholly migratory in Eastern Europe and Asia. The Whooper Swans, Tundra Swans and the Trumpeter Swans are fully migratory. Evidence suggests that the Black-necked Swan is migratory over part of its range.
Their calls consist of a loud, deep, sonorous, trumpet-like honking sounds, as well as peeps, hisses and gurgles.
Swans usually mate for life, though “divorce” does sometimes occur, particularly following nesting failure, and if a mate dies, the remaining swan will take up with another.
Bonded pairs tend to remain together year-round; however, outside the breeding season, they are highly social and often congregate with large numbers of other swans. During the breeding season, pairs will, however, aggressively defend their territories.
Swans build their nests on land out of twigs and leaves, and the female swan lays between 3 and 9 eggs. The baby swans hatch out of their eggs after an incubation of just over a month.
Swans couple will guard their baby swans furiously from predators or any animal that she believes is a threat. After swans scare off threat, they flap their wings and call to each other in celebration – sort of like a swan high-five!
A juvenile swan normally lives as part of a flock until it is about 4 years old and deemed as being an adult. It then seeks out a mate, most commonly from the flock it’s living in, and heads off with the mate to find their own mating territory.
A male swan is called a cob, and a female swan is called a pen. A baby swan is called a cygnet and a group of swans is called a bevy or a wedge in flight.
Due to their large size, swans have few natural predators in the wild. The swan’s main predator is the human who hunts the swan for it’s meat and it’s feathers. Other predators of the swan include wolves, raccoons and foxes they prey both on the swan itself but also on it’s eggs.
Before European explorers had reached Australia, it was believed that all swans were white. Dutch mariner, Antounie Caen, was the first to be amazed at the sight of Australia’s Black swans on the Shark Bay in 1636.
Noted for their graceful movements in the water, they have been the subject of many poems, fairy tales, legends, and musical compositions.
The swan song is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement. The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song in the moment just before death, having been silent (or alternatively, not so musical) during most of their lifetime.
The swan has about 25,000 feathers in its body.
Swans fly in a V-shaped formation when flying in groups.
They can fly up to 95 km/h (60 mph), although 30 to 50 km/h (19 – 31 mph) is the norm.
The “divorce rate” is estimated to be about 6%.
Traditionally, the British Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but only exercises ownership on certain stretches of the River Thames and its surrounding tributaries.
Cygnophobia or kiknophobia is the fear of swans.