Mute Swan — a representative of the duck family, leading a sedentary lifestyle. The largest among the entire order of anseriformes. Majestic and graceful, causing delight and admiration. The expressive and spectacular appearance attracts observers strolling through the park, where birds often swim in ponds or lakes.
Origin of the species and description
Cygnus olor (lat.) got its name due to the specific sounds made by males when danger approaches. However, in addition to hissing, birds can make grunting sounds, whistling and snorting. The mute differs from other subspecies in its especially graceful and curved neck.
Mute swans are Eurasian birds. Their spread took place in two stages: at the end of the 19th century and in the 1930s. At that time, swans were introduced to Victoria. There they lived in city parks and were their decoration, now they are carefully guarded by the authorities.
Video: Mute swan
Previously, these birds lived in Japan. Now periodically appear on the territory of Bermuda, Canada, USA, New Zealand. In 1984, Denmark made the mute the national symbol of the country. The bird is equated to royal, royal.
In England, all individuals are considered the property of the king. Since the 15th century, only wealthy landowners with an influential social status could own these birds. To indicate the presence of a host, all birds were ringed. In the Abbotsbury Reserve, swans were bred for meat, which was served on the table of kings.
In Russia, dishes from mute were considered privileged. If there were no fried swans on the table, then the guests in the owner’s house were not so revered. In 1610, Moscow Tsar Vladislav was served three swans together with offal or baked in pies.
Appearance and features
Birds have impressive size, they are the largest of the whole species. They are distinguished from their relatives by a bright orange beak and a black outgrowth at its base, a massive neck, and raised wings. During the mating season, the bridle in males may swell and become more noticeable.
Paws, webbed fingers and eyes are black in birds. The wings are wide, their span reaches 240 centimeters. When birds sense danger, they raise them above their backs, arch their necks, and hiss. When swimming, swans bend their necks into an S and lower their beaks. Because of their short legs, they cannot move quickly on land.
- the weight of females is 6-8 kg.;
- the weight of males is 10-13 kg.;
- body length – 160-180 cm.
The largest mute swan has been registered in Poland. The bird weighed 23 kilograms. It is not known for certain whether she could take off.
Newborn chicks are covered with dirty gray fluff, the beak is lead-colored. They become similar to their parents at the age of 2-3 years. There are about 25 thousand feathers on the body of a swan. Adult birds flap their wings very loudly. This sound can be heard up to a kilometer away. On the low legs there are wide webs that help when swimming.
On the short tail of the mute, there is a lubricant that envelops the feathers and prevents the swan from getting wet.
Where does the mute swan live?
The bird can be found in isolated areas of Central and Southern Europe, in Asia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Primorsky Krai, and China. In all these places, it is very rare, pairs nest at a great distance from each other, and in some places the birds do not settle at all.
On the territory of the former USSR, mute mute live in the Ural basin and on separate ponds and lakes of Kazakhstan. In many parts of Europe, the bird is domesticated. In the wild, birds choose places not visited by humans – lakes and estuaries, the surface of which is overgrown with vegetation, swamps.
Thanks to human efforts, there are small populations in Australia, North America, New Zealand, and on the African continent. Most swans are either tamed or live in semi-captivity – like decorative birds in city parks.
Birds inhabit territories over 500 meters above sea level. It can also be river mouths, fresh water bodies, sea bays. Swans nest on the Baltic, Atlantic and Asian coasts. After the offspring grow up, they go to the Caspian and Black Seas for wintering. Birds can stay in their nests, then people feed them.
During wintering, they unite in small colonies. If one of the members of the flock is sick and cannot fly, the rest postpone the flight until the sick individual recovers. In winter, the feathers of birds remain white, and when they fly to a warm climate, they darken.
What does the mute swan eat?
Feathers prefer food of plant origin. The diet of swans raised in the wild and living in natural conditions is somewhat different from the diet of domestic birds.
The mute swan eats:
- underwater parts of plants;
- characeae and filamentous algae.
If there are small crustaceans and molluscs on the plants, they also become food for the swans. Due to the long neck, birds can dive into water to a depth of one meter. Like ducks, they dip their head, neck and front of the body into the water, standing vertically in the water and reaching the bottom with their beak. On land, swans feed on leaves and cereals.
When diving, small parts of plants come off, which the chicks feed on. During wintering, algae are mainly consumed as food. Due to the storm and rising water levels, food production becomes very difficult. Then they starve and become exhausted to such an extent that they cannot fly. But still, they do not leave their nests and wait for good weather.
People all the time strive to feed the mute with bread, but this is absolutely impossible to do. The stomach of birds is not adapted for such food. Having eaten swollen bread, swans can get sick and die. At the same time, feeding with grain can save birds from starvation in winter. They can eat up to 4 kg of grain per day.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Swans spend a large period of their lives on the water. In deserted places, they can go to land. For the night, the birds remain in water bodies: in places of intertwined rhizomes and reeds. They are tolerant of other birds, so they can make nests next to goose.
They can settle both in colonies and separately. Distinguished by a peaceful nature, they show aggression only when defending the territory. When danger approaches, birds bend their necks, puff up their feathers and swim towards a stranger. During skirmishes, they beat strongly with their beaks. You can get serious injuries by being overly interested in masonry.
If no one disturbs the nest, the swans keep to the last place of residence and leave it only when the reservoir is completely frozen. Usually departure begins from the end of September in the north and from October in the south of the range. Birds fly both day and night. The whistle of the flock’s wings carries very far. They fly in an oblique line, uttering hoarse cries.
On wintering, mute mute live in already formed pairs. Lonely individuals get acquainted with partners and enter into marriage alliances. From the age of two, swans molt twice a year. During a complete molt in summer, birds lose their ability to fly. During this period, the parents take care of the chicks and cannot leave them when they are worried.
There is a well-known legend about swan fidelity. It says that if one of the partners dies, then the second one is no longer looking for a mate. This is not entirely true. Indeed, birds live with one partner throughout their lives. But if he dies, the second one is looking for a new mate.
Despite their impressive size, mute birds fly very well. During migration, they may unite in colonies of many thousands to avoid predators. Swans do not know how to take off from land. This happens only on the water and from a long run. In bad weather, they lie down on the ground, hide their beaks in feathers and wait out the bad weather.
Social structure and reproduction
Starting from the age of four, swans form married couples. Due to human persecution, families can break up and there are too many single males, as a result of which they try to beat off females from already existing pairs. Males beat their wings painfully, but most often the stranger can be driven away.
Couples together choose a site near a pond with an overgrown shore. For single individuals, the mating season begins in March. At this time, the birds swim nearby, the males puff up their wings and often dip their heads into the water. Then the male swims up to the female and they intertwine their necks.
After such actions, the female plunges into the water up to her neck and they mate. The pair then floats up, presses against each other’s breasts, and begins cleaning their feathers. Next, the female builds a nest away from places where there are people. The male at this time guards the territory and hisses at all approaching strangers.
The nest consists of last year’s reeds and aquatic plants. The nest in shallow water can be about a meter long and 75 centimeters high. If it is built from rhizomes, then its width can reach 4 meters, and its height is one meter. When the dwelling is ready, the female plucks fluff from her chest and lines the bottom with it.
Swans that give birth to their first offspring can have only one egg. As the females grow older, their number increases to 5-8. At first, the eggs are dark green in color, but by the time the chick is born, they become white in color. Hatching lasts about 35 days. The male guards the territory all this time.
By the beginning of summer, gray chicks appear, which see and swim with their mother from birth. For the first four months, the babies bask on the back of the female; at night, the whole family sleeps in the nest. By 5 months, the chicks become independent. In autumn, the whole family flies away for the winter to warmer climes.
Natural enemies of mute swans
In adults there are few natural enemies, as they are strong and courageous enough to scare away predators and humans. Males even dare to attack boats if they feel a threat to the family from them. They hiss and attack enemies aggressively.
For Eurasian chicks, foxes, golden eagles, ospreys, and gulls are considered enemies. The nest can be destroyed by brown bears or wolves. Or encroach on a young brood. The inhabitants of the tundra should be wary of arctic foxes. For adults, the threat can only come from wolves or bears.
Species living in North America are threatened by hawks, raccoons, lynxes, cougars, wolverines, ravens, otters, owls. Toddlers may be preyed upon by large American tortoises. Australian mute swans should be wary of dingoes, the only predators on the continent.
The mute swan has a very good memory, which helps to remember the enemy for a long time and, if necessary, take revenge on him.
In ancient times, ruthless hunting was carried out on birds, birds were killed for meat and fluff. As a result, swans have become a rare species. At the beginning of the 20th century, during military operations, the mute were completely destroyed on the territory of Belarus.
Along with other waterfowl, mute birds get sick and die due to pollution of rivers, development, industry, in particular, hydrocarbon production, leakage of fuel oil and oil. During migration, birds can sit in an oil or black oil puddle, which will lead to a painful death. High-voltage lines and lead fishing sinkers are dangerous.
Population and species status
After the mass extermination of mute mute in the USSR, hunting was banned everywhere. Thanks to this, the number of birds has slightly increased and continues to increase to this day. Currently, there are more than 350 thousand adults in Russia.
You can now meet birds in parks, in artificial reservoirs, strolling through the botanical garden. Swans are the majestic decoration of every pond. Birds adapt well to life in captivity, therefore they do not bring difficulties to their owners.
Due to the sparseness of populations, bird hunting is often accidental and not profitable. In small numbers, individuals can be caught nesting during the molting period. Birds that are starving or sick become easy prey for poachers.
After the ban on hunting for mute mute, their number around the world has recovered to 600 thousand individuals, according to IUCN estimates. About 30 thousand live in the UK. In other countries, many times less. In Belarus in 2000, the number of mute mute was only 137 pairs. By 2010, there were 244 of them. Now 800-950 pairs are registered for nesting, about one and a half thousand individuals are registered for wintering.
In the UK and Denmark, swans are treated with special respect and endowed with a special status. In the first case, more than 20 thousand birds belong to the queen and are carefully guarded. In the second, mute swans are recognized as a national symbol of the state.
Protection of mute swans
The species is endangered and listed in the Red Books of Kazakhstan, Kirov, Ulyanovsk, Sverdlovsk, Penza, Chelyabinsk regions and the Republic of Bashkortostan. In the new edition of the Red Data Book of Belarus, the mute are excluded from it.
In 1960, a law was passed banning the hunting of these birds. Thanks to protection and caring people who feed birds in winter, the number is growing every year. An important role is played by breeding them in captivity. Under good conditions, this allows the swan to live up to 30 years.
Captive breeding of mute birds has led to the naturalization of birds in places not included in their original range – Australia, North America and other countries. In Europe, the subspecies also survived thanks to domesticated individuals that accidentally or intentionally fell into the wild.
Domestication has led to the fact that swans are no longer afraid to settle next to humans. Now they can often be found in ponds and lakes of settlements. The authorities control poaching activities. Some fishermen believe that swans eat fish eggs and shoot at them. Even in case of a miss, the bird unknowingly swallows the shot and dies of poisoning.
In favorable conditions for swans, birds live calmly and do not strive to freedom. They adapt to the environment, form pairs and give offspring. To keep them at home, it is enough to provide the birds with a clean reservoir and a well-fed wintering.
Mute swan — a proud and beautiful look is often flaunted on sites about lovers as an example to follow, as a sign of fidelity and spiritual purity. The popularity of this majestic and graceful bird is undeniable. Monogamous birds take care of their offspring and are protected by law.