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Facts about Swans

Swans get our vote for the natural world’s most graceful and beautiful creature. The beautiful snowy feathers and long graceful neck have created a picture that many artists have worked hard to recreate. There are logos, associations, organizations, home décor and more inspired by the beauty.

  • The mute swan is the one that most Americans and Europeans are familiar with
  • A swan mates for life
  • There are three species of swans found in North America:
  • Trumpeter: Black bill with red border on lower mandible; the red border may be present on some tundras. The eye is hard to distinguish, fading into the bill and the slope of bill is straighter.
  • Tundra: Black bill, usually with yellow spot of varying size in front of the eye; the spot may be absent on some. The eye is separate from the bill.
  • Mute: Orange bill with prominent black knob (called a caruncle) at base—Pentu and Teller are Mute Swans.
  • The black swan is native to Australia.
  • The adult male is called a cob. He is the only known bird to have a penis.
  • He is both a devoted father and husband. He has been known to use a blow from the “knucklebone” of his wing to defend his family. His blow is said to be strong enough to break a man’s arm according to Donald and Louise Peattie in “Legend with Wings.”
  • The Mute Swan is perhaps the noisiest of all swans having eight different sounds in its repertoire
  • Swans can fly as fast as 50 to 60 miles per hour
  • Some have a wing span of 10 feet
  • Swans were nearing extinction in the 1930s in the U.S. but due to measures taken to protect them their population is again growing.
  • A baby swan or cygnet has a grey feathered coat until it reaches about 20 pounds. Then it too will become snowy white like its parents.
  • The black necked swan is native to South America. 
  • A baby swan pecks at the inside of the egg for 24 hours prior to making its entrance
  • The female swan is referred to as a pen
  • Visually the most noticeable difference between the male and female swan is size, unlike many other animals where the male and female are colored differently
  • The typical weight of a swan is from 11.3 to 15.88 kg (25 to 35 pounds) and height while standing alert 4 feet or 1.2 meters.
  • From the tip of the bill to the end of their tail they measure 5 feet or 1.5 meters.
  • The regal beauty is one of the reasons for the swan to be considered as a royal bird in England and all swans found in the open waters belong to the crown
  • A mother swan has a sound similar to a yipping puppy, which it uses to call the young to her
  • Swans are the largest known flying bird
  • They are not known to attack humans without cause, and actually can remember humans that have been kind to them
  • They dine off of aquatic vegetation, insects, tiny fish and tadpoles. Because they are able to reach far below the water’s surface, they have actually broken plants apart and left them floating on the water which enables smaller birds to find ready food.
  • The mute swan’s neck has 23 vertebrae, which is more than any other bird
  • Their life expectancy in a protected environment is as long as 30 years
  • In Canada the swans of Lost Lagoon have their wing tendons clipped to keep them from flying away. While they cannot fly they can raise themselves above the water surface for a quick get away or to protect their young.