Tag Archives: Mute Swans

Mute Swans Elegant Wildlife The Magic Brew of Nature

Mute Swans are Elegant but Wildlife and The Magic Brew of  Nature

TUESDAY AUGUST 31st 2010

My question is  – Can you look in Swanny’s eye, as she or her mate may die due to Dalton McGintry calling for a  “cull” on Mute Swans to control their population ?

By Jaqueline Darby

and

Doug Worrall

Mute Swan

Mute Swans are in the Anatidae family. and according to the U.N. Environmental Program Mute Swans exist in 70 countries. Evolutionary, the Mute swan sub-fossils 6,000 years old were found in glacial peat beds in East Anglia, in Great Britain.   They are classified as non-native, imported from Europe.  But they are ancient circumboreal bird, and history cites Europe, Asia into Russia Maritimes and Kamchaika, then Alaska to Canada.  James Bay Area in Canada digs confirms a very early presence.  It is the largest British bird, and they nick the swan on the webs (feet) or beak to indicate ownership, registered by the Crown by a Royal Swanherd.  Any bird not marked is Crown property and called “Royal Bird” as the Queen has rights to them.  Even “Swan-upping” (food) is still practiced by The Worshipful Companies of the Vinters and Dyers on the River Thames in London.  .  Mute Swans are also the national emblem of Denmark.

They were first described by the German Naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789.  “Cygnus” and “olor” in Latin mean Swan.  Cygnus is related to the Greek word “kykos.”  In 1930 the  American Orthinologists’ Union changed the species name, known as Sithenelides olor.  There are no recognized living subspecies of Mute Swans.  The morph inmulabilis (Poland Swan) in which the cygnets is a dull white, is not a subspecies because it occurs in all populations.  White coloured cygets has a leucistic gene.  And, Mutes are white at maturity.
It was fishermen who thought Mute Swans were destroying eelgrass and keeping fish away that prompted the most extensive government Study in Sweden.  The results of the study was total exoneration  (not guilty) of the Mute Swan (Berglund, B.E. 1963).
Mute swans can hybridize both Trumpeter and Tundra Swans because of their aggressive disposition.  They are “territorial” birds and aggressive to any intruder, including humans.  All swans will attack in defence of their families, during the period of FLEDGING of the offspring – signets up to 6 months old – which is longer than most other birds. The Males come with wings beating, back hunched and neck extended streaks across the lake with a wake behind him and jumps on another Swan or predator.
The Dept. of Zoology, Oxford University studying Mute Swans in Dorset, England shed light on the question – Why do we stop reproducing after a certain age ? Mute Swans have colonized in Dorset, England for 600 years.  This supports the Antagonistic Pleiotrophy  Theory for the evolution of ageing.  The theory says “reproductive success in early life will lead to faster ageing later = you “pay” in later life for your success in reproducing when young.   You cannot win on all levels: the more you invest early in life, the earlier you are going to senesce (age) in reproduction terms, as shown in their study.  It is an Evolutionary Trade-Off: If you carry GENES which will make you start reproducing early, you also can carry genes which will make you stop early.  It explains why birds and other animals, like humans, age, because we invest early in life.  The importance of this study is it shows the link between the age you start reproducing and the age you stop is actually GENETIC. Field research in the study of life history of a species is in ecology and evolutionary biology which is genetically based.

Swannys signets first swim

Since April 2,010 in Hamilton Harbour we have witnessed the nesting, birth, and now fledgling of two Mute Swan families and their signets.  But, the second family has pulled at heartstrings as in “the magic brew of nature”  and has been dubbed “Swanny.”  She is absolutely beautiful with her four signets and mate.  Photographs indicate this family development since building of her nest late in May.  Some people said, she laid the eggs too late, they will never hatch, and that turned out to be untrue.  It is a joy to follow her family almost daily, a graceful beautiful bird. Mute Swans are known to live for 25 years, but most survive five to six years.
Winter is approaching and everyone wonders how the Swans will survive.  Because in North Americans population they do not migrate long distances, but move from ice-bound freshwater to nearby open coastal bays in winter where they gather in :flocks” of 100 or more.
Watching Mute Swans “float” in icy water the question is asked – Why doesn’t the water freeze that the Mute Swan is floating upon  ?” First of all, swans have feet that come equipped with a network of arteries and veins lying close to each other called RETE MIRABILE .  In Latin the term means “wonderful net” and it is.  Fresh, hot blood flowing from the heart to the feet in arteries (up to 106 degrees F) enters the feet and immediately warms the cold blood returning in the veins.  Heat is exchanged because the arteries and veins are so close together.  The warm blood reheats the cold blood preventing body heat from being lost, so the foot never gets cold enough to freeze.
Secondly, a Mute Swan has 25,000 feathers.  The feathers, especially the fluffy down feathers on the chest and belly are “like hair.”  They do not contain blood vessels so body heat is not lost into the environments.  Feathers trap warm air near the skin to keep body heat in.  There’s also a layer of fat in the dermis (Just below the skin)  that provides insulation and can be used for energy during cold weather (to produce heat) and when food is in short supply. Historically, their feathers or quills were used for writing, their leathery feet for purses, and  from their wing bones made whistles.
My question is  – Can you look in Swanny’s eye, as she or her mate may die due to Dalton McGintry calling for a  “cull” on Mute Swans to control their population ?
Enjoy the Magic and all the beauty around you
SAY “NO” to Dalton Mcintry
DOUG WORRALL