14 1/2" long, by 7 1/2" high,
by 6" wide.
mute swan is a large, all-white swan recognized by its orange
bill which is black at its base. There is also a prominent black
knob at the base of its bill. Another distinctive characteristic
is the graceful curved neck held in an S-shape with the bill
pointed downward while the bird is swimming. The male mute swan,
or cob, is usually larger in size with a more prominent knob
on his forehead but is otherwise identical to the female, or
pen. Young swans, called cygnets, are usually white, but gray-colored
cygnets are not uncommon.
North America, mute swans (7,000 or more) are concentrated along
the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Maryland with a smaller
population in Michigan. Approximately 150 pairs of mute swans
have been recorded nesting along the Connecticut coast and up
to 20 miles inland along the major rivers, and in some inland
lakes and ponds.
mute swans breed at age three and remain with the same mate for
life. Courtship display begins in late February and each pair
vigorously defends a territory (four to 10 acres in size) from
other swans. The nest, constructed in late March or early April,
is typically a large (4' x 4'), somewhat circular pile of aquatic
plants built on an island or in clumps of cattails or grasses
along the edge of the water. Flooding is a common cause of nest
failure. If a nest is lost, renesting may occur until late spring.
An average of four to six eggs are laid in a three to four-inch
depression in the nest center and incubated by the pen for 36
to 38 days. The cob becomes most aggressive when defending the
incubating pen or young cygnets and will chase and even attack
other wildlife and people nearby. Before leaving the nest, young
cygnets may be subject to chilling during rainy periods and can
die from exposure. After leaving the nest, the cygnets are sometimes
preyed upon until they are about 40 days old. Most cygnets have
fledged by early fall but will remain with their parents until
late fall. Survival after fledging is high and 50 percent of
the young can expect to survive through age seven. Mute swans
are long-lived (20 to 30 years) and can breed every year after
age three. However, the reproductive rate drops considerably
after age 20.
mute swan was introduced into the eastern United States from
Europe. The Atlantic Flyway population is thought to be the result
of several hundred swans transplanted to the lower Hudson River
Valley and Long Island between 1910 to 1912. Feral mute swans
were reported in Connecticut by the 1930s but establishment of
breeding birds did not begin until the late 1950s. The midwinter
waterfowl survey recorded mute swans in 1963 with a count of
143. The most recent midwinter survey counts average 1,500, which
is 20 percent of the entire Atlantic Coast population.
North American populations of mute swans do not migrate long
distances but move from ice-bound freshwater ponds to nearby
open coastal bays in the winter where they gather in flocks of
100 or more.
positive aspect of mute swans in Connecticut is their aesthetic
appeal. However, many conservationists consider the mute swan
to be an ecologically damaging exotic species. Mute swans' territorial
defense of an area may affect native breeding waterfowl populations.
A recent study of interactions between mute swans and native
waterfowl on freshwater ponds in southeastern Massachusetts concluded
that the mere presence and antagonistic behaviors of swans caused
native waterfowl to avoid nesting. Not only do the swans compete
for nesting areas with other waterfowl, they graze heavily and
uproot aquatic vegetation important as a food source for native
mute swans provides a source of enjoyment for some state residents.
However, the aggressive nature of the species and its close association
with human activity will undoubtedly continue to result in swan
nuisance problems. One thing citizens can do to reduce nuisance
swan problems is to avoid feeding them. Swans that become used
to handouts sometimes get belligerent if the food is cut off.