A family of mute swans have been raised on Canada Water this year. Originally six in number, the young – known as cygnets – have now reduced to four but they all seem to be flourishing. The photos below are of ‘our’ swans all taken between late May and early July 2014
The mute swan is a very large white waterbird native to the UK. It has a long S-shaped neck, and an orange bill with black at the base of it. This swan is one of the heaviest flying birds and flies with its neck extended with regular slow wingbeats. The population in the UK has increased recently, perhaps due to better protection of this species. Adults of this large swan typically range from 140 to 160 cm (55 to 63 in) long. Males – known as cobs – are larger than females – known as pens – and have a larger knob on their bill. A large cob can weight more than 15kg (33lbs) at maturity.
Nesting and feeding
Mute swans nest on large mounds that they build with waterside vegetation in shallow water on islands in the middle or at the very edge of a lake. They are monogamous and often reuse the same nest each year, restoring or rebuilding it as needed. Male and female swans share the care of the nest, and once the cygnets are fledged it is not uncommon to see whole families looking for food. Mute swan pens lay an average of four eggs, and she broods for 36 days. The cygnets do not reach the ability to fly until 120-150 days. Swans feed on a wide range of vegetation, both submerged aquatic plants which they reach with their long necks, and by grazing on land.
Territory and defence
Mute swans are usually strongly territorial with just a single pair on smaller lakes like Canada Water. But they can form large flocks particularly where food is plentiful and amongst mostly non-breeding birds. Mute swans can be very aggressive in defence of their nests. Most defensive attacks from a mute swan begin with a loud hiss and, if this is not sufficient to drive off the predator, are followed by a physical attack. Swans attack by smashing at their enemy with bony spurs in the wings, accompanied by biting with their large bill.
Find more in Collins Bird Guide 2nd edition