Tag Archives: Mute Swan



Monday August 2nd 2010

The Mute Swan, native of northern and central Eurasis acclimatized to North America due to similar climate.  In North America,  it was introduced in the 1800s to GRACE the ponds and parks. The Mute Swan denotes: innocent dignity, elegant curver,  and snowhite plumage.Individual Swans escaped these ponds and parks, establishing breeding populations in alternative areas.  In these areas, the Mute Swan’s aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.  They are protected in Canada, under the Ontario Migration Bird Act, since 1974 Birding Magazine has pointed out concerns of the increasing populations of Mute Swans.  The Mute Swan (Cygnus sp.) has been coined  in a 2,009 study, “the cattle of the waterfowl.”  It is the largest, weighing up to fifty pounds.

Breeding usually starts at three years old.  They make simple construction nests.  No material is carried to the nest.  Insead, they choose a site and flatten vegetation.  Once the female lays an egg, she builds a nesting rampart around her, as the nest. Between the months of March and May female Mute Swans (pen) can lay a clutch of normally between 3  to 7 eggs.  Although, 11 eggs have been recorded.  Incubation starts with the last egg laid.  The incubation period to a signet hatching, takes about 35 days.

Nesting family two
family one area

The Male Mute Swan during this breeding season becomes very territorial and aggressive to any intruders.  This aggressive behaviour has been known to cause death, by Male Mute Swans.  Although they do issue a warning signal, humans tend to venture too close to the Swan’s nesting.  Because he is protecting his family, the Mute Swan immediately threatens humans that venture too close.  Their powerful wings can inflict a painful blow to humans.  But, contrary to this fact, Mute Swans do not bite.
  • Downy young Mute Swans (called signets), come in two colour morphs: a gray form and a white form.  The gray (or “Royals) chicks start off with gray Brown and grown in gray-brown and white feathers.  This gives them a mottled look.  White (or, Polish”) chicks have white down  and Juvenal feathers.  Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs and feet instead of black, but otherwise the adults look alike.
  • The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently.  Swans will remate if their partner dies.  If a male loses his mate and pairs with a younger female, she joins him on his territory.  If he mates with an older female, they go to her territory.  If a female loses her mate, she re-mates quickly and usually chooses a younger male.
  • The three family’s ,Near one of the many Harbor Islands unprotected by Harborfront park lives the unbreeding Pair of Mute swans. They look beautiful and splendid out in the light of the harbour.They cohabitate with plenty of different waterfowl
  • Whereas family one and two stay close to protection from the elements, and the numerous prey animals, Fox, Peregrine falcons  and Bald eagle being the most prevalent in Hamilton.
  • Non breeding pair

During the breeding season, the knob at the base of the Male’s bill swells.  Here, the Male’s bill becomes noticeably larger than the females.  But, during the remainder of the year, the difference between the sexes is not obvious. It is during this breeding season the Male becomes very territorial and aggressive to any intruders. The Male Mute Swan when exhibiting such behaviour, has been known to cause death.  Even though they give a waring call, humans tend to venture too close to the Swan’s nest.  Instinctively, the Male Swan threatens the intruder (humans) because he is protecting his family.  The Swan’s wings are very powerful and can inflict a painful blow.  But, contrary to that fact, the Mute Swan is not noted for biting.
Three months ago, myself, Jacqueline and others began a field investigation by photographing and documenting the Mute Swan’s behaviour patterns.  This commenced from the laying of eggs on the nest site, to hatching, and up to the present time where the young signets are now  two months old and growing daily.  I did find a dead signet, by the other Swan’s nest (Swanny).  Maybe it was a gift from the Male Swan, but that is an educated  guess.
What I do know is the Male Swan from Family #1 is more of a BUSKER due to the chosen nesting area in the park.  Here, there  are more boats, people and “Canadian Geese.”  The geese are the issue with the Mute Swans.  The Swans clear the Canadian Geese away in order that they can go searching for food.   The Canadian Geese have increased in population due to climate change and the lack of water clarity.
And,  Family #1 (Swanny’s family) and NEST is near Algae patches andedible food.  The nesting area of Family #1 is more protected and the Male Swan Busks.  Each day I witness and record additional photographs of this behaviour.

Busking behaviour

Like humans, Swans need to Communicate.  As I observe them each day, the communication between the signets and the adult parent Mute Swans appears to be understood at an improved level.  One Male signet leads the others out to search for food. Mom comes next, swimming out in front of the signets.  Dad continues the protective stance, checking all areas for predators.  The signets have picked up these behaviour signals from their parents modeling (Mom and Dad) making them more self-sufficient.  Until six months old, during the period before the fledgling of their offspring, the signets stay with their parents.  This is a longer period of time than most other birds.

Male mute swan

common pose

Enjoy the photographs and information.
Doug Worrall

Mute Swan Protecting His Family Hamilton Harbour

Mute Swan Protecting His Family Hamilton Harbour


 Protecting His Family

The first person experience is the only  approach to the good.  It is a creative act and the ultimate end of photographic artistry.  You must stop, observe and document as there appears to be a TIMELESSNESS – then click, the perfect picture is achieved.
Today, as I arrived at the area in Hamilton Harbour, it was evident that the Canadian Geese were congregating together.  It was evident, and I had a sense of  awareness that the Male Mute Swan would have to clear the Canadian Geese soon, in order that the signets (his children) could swim.
The Male Swan makes a very low pitched squeak and hiss mixed together, as a warning signal, prior to attacking.  This sound is very high pitched, but soft and quite quiet, not loud at all.  Upon hearing the warning signal, the Canadian Geese immediately identified its meaning, and they quickly fled.  Their flight put the Male Swan in a better position to accelerate his attack.


As the Canadian Geese are dispersing, the Male Swan singles out an individual goose and attacks it ; one-on-one combat !  The first photo is of  (the Male Mute Swan) getting a “nip” on the behind of the Canadian goose.  That is like a Father protecting his children, because someone is too close for comfort.  Instinct makes us protect our space and our loved ones, so the Swan is like humans in that way.


Other than a broken leg that the Canadian Goose received from the bill of the Male Swan, he appeared none the worse for wear.  But, instinctively, I “felt” something was happening.  This  feeling prompted me to quickly change my camera lens to the 200 mm zoom lens.

Knowing an attack was imminent, I continually observed the Male Swan. It is noteworthy to point out that over a period of three months in my field investigations and observations of this Family of Mute Swans ( and, I call the Female “Swanny”) several stages have occurred.  That is, I have observed and documented their progress from nesting; laying of 5 eggs; to the eggs hatching after five weeks of incubation; and, currently the four signets are one month old and growing daily.


After three hours of taking pictures it was time to Ebike back into the city, enjoy the post today
Doug Worrall