Mute Swan

Mute Swan, Vancouver Island, BC

Mute Swans are large birds that are capable of flight but prefer not to fly. Male swans are called cobs, female swans are pens, and young swans are known as cygnets. The mute swan has a long curved neck and an orange bill with a black knob at the base.

These Swans are about 1.5 meters long, with a wingspan of over 2 meters. They are found all over the Pacific Northwest. Mute swans inhabit ponds, lakes, marshes, rivers, and estuaries. These swans eat marine vegetation, grass, insects, mollusks, worms, small fish, and frogs. They use their long necks to forage beneath the water’s surface for food.

They have no real voice, but they are capable of making snorting sounds and hissing. These large birds are usually calm, but can become aggressive when threatened. They are very capable of defending themselves and their territories with their large wings, beaks, and necks.

Mute Swan, Vancouver Island, BC
Mute Swan, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

They are able to breed at around three years old, and they mate for life. A breeding pair will build a nest at the edge of the water out of dried grass, reeds, and other plant matter. Although the female does most of the nest building, the male assists with collecting nesting materials and egg incubation, up to 7 eggs will be laid in April or May.

Swan eggs take around 40 days to hatch. The newly hatched cygnets are a small grayish-brown bundle of fluff. Mute swans are good parents, taking good care of the young, and they can sometimes be seen with very young cygnets riding on their backs.

Mute Swan, Vancouver Island, BC
Mute Swan, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

I find that Mute Swans are one of the most beautiful birds in the Pacific Northwest. It’s always a pleasure to observe them in the wild. I knew a wild swan named Pete who upon seeing me would run up and put his head on my shoulder for a hug, he was a pretty cool bird.

The mute swan is a bird that was introduced by European immigrants. This is the swan that typically is featured in artwork and folklore. Mute swans are very beautiful to look at, but are an undesirable exotic species that harass native waterfowl and uproot large quantities of aquatic vegetation. Almost all North American breeding populations of mute swans were established by the escape or accidental release of captive birds.

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