“Inquisitive” – Male Swan
I met this handsome male Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) while on a photography drive one summer afternoon . He (males are called cobbs) and his mate (females are called pens) lived on a lovely old farm on a twisting back road near where I live. I almost missed them but for their bright white color against the green grass. After pulling over and parking, I walked back to the fence separating me from the swans.
The pen didn’t bother with me – she was too busy nipping the long green grass growing near the fence. The cobb, however, was not pleased with my intrusion. He fluffed his feathers and arched his wings from his body, then pulled his neck back onto his back with his bill pulled downwards. He slowly walked towards me, I’m sure hoping I would get the message and clear out of his turf. Swans are very territorial, and a bite from their long beak would really hurt!
I remained calm and kept clicking as he approached. Our standoff continued with him staring me down, me clicking away, and her nibbling. After several minutes of this, he must have decided I wasn’t a threat because he calmed down and started to nibble himself. Slowly, I crouched down to his eye level. That sparked his interest again, as he approached the fence and spied on my activities, which was, of course, exactly what I wanted him to do.
Mute swans are not natives to the Americas. They are European, and were brought to the New World by settlers. Whistling swans are native to North America, which do not have the classic “S” curve in their necks as do mute swans. Mutes swans are very large birds, the cobbs weighing in at up to 30 lbs. Their wingspan is nearly eight feet and their wings are very strong, used for both flight and defense.
Swans mate for many years, and their babies are called signets (cygnets). A flock of swans is called a herd. As I mentioned before, swans will aggressively protect their territory, and will attempt to drown challengers by sitting on their backs and holding their heads under water.
An interesting historical fact about swans in the UK. According Royal Prerogative in British Common Law, the Monarch owns all Mute Swans living in the wild, which shows how much these beautiful birds were valued, both as ornaments and as a source of meat.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my time with the swans, as long as they stayed on their side of the fence!
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