Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The beautiful Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is the bird that people most commonly picture when discussing a swan. This striking, white bird with its slender neck, black eyes and dark orange bill has become a bird of legend, with many European and Asian fairytales and bedtime stories featuring this magnificent creature. The Mute Swan is found naturally in the more temperate parts of Europe and western Asia and, while it is not migratory as such, certain inland populations are forced to move to the coast in winter when their waterways and lakes may freeze over. Because these birds are considered to be so beautiful, some have been taken to other countries where attempts have been made to keep them at parks and ponds. However, the birds inevitably escape and as a result there are currently a number of feral bird populations in the US which have become naturalised over time. In some places, however, they compete with local bird species for food and space resulting in them being labelled as ‘pests’. Nevertheless, they fall under the AEWA conservation agreement.

The Mute Swan is an impressively large bird with an average body length of between 145-160 cm. Their wingspan may measure 208-238 cm in length and the males are normally quite a bit larger than the females. These proportions and the resulting weight make the Mute Swan one of the heaviest flying birds in the world and the heaviest water bird ever recorded. Both the cobs (males) and pens (females) are similar in appearance with pure white bodies, necks and heads. There is a small black area around their eye which joins up with the knob on their bills. The males have a larger knob than the females. Their bills are orange-red in color and their necks have an unmistakable S-like curve which adds greatly to their allure. Young Mute Swans are called ‘cygnets’ and they are normally a dull white or grey with a dull-colored bill.

Mute Swans usually build their nests on large mounds which they create in shallow water. These mounds may be either in the middle or near the edge of a lake. The birds typically use the same nest each year and they may have to restore or rebuild it at the beginning of breeding season. The Mute Swan is monogamous and both sexes share in building and caring for the nest and for incubating and raising their young. Mute Swans normally feed on water plants, insects and snails and an adult may eat as much as 4 kg of vegetation in one day. These birds are generally found in large colonies and can become quite tame though they will always act defensively if you approach their nest and it is not recommendable for anyone to do so.

Trumpeter Swans Might Not Be Endangered Anymore

January 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

In this day and age of destruction and desolation, it is not often that you find wildlife officials reaching positive milestones. Yet that is exactly what is happening in Wisconsin. It seems that in that part of the United States, trumpeter swan numbers have increased so much that officials are now considering whether or not to remove them from the local endangered wildlife species list.

Trumpeter swans in Wisconsin suffered a dramatic decline in numbers in the past – so much so that they were listed as an endangered species in that area. Their decline was the result of a number of different factors, but mainly through human interference. For starters they were ruthlessly hunted before the turn of the 19th century, leading to a dramatic decrease in numbers. What was left was further affected by the use of the pesticide DDT in the area, with the result that local populations were well and truly decimated. Fortunately the state-run Department of Natural Resources saw the need to take action and the majestic white birds were reintroduced to the state in the 1980s. Trumpeter swans in Wisconsin were also placed on the endangered list in 1986, as part of efforts to further ensure their survival. The original goal was to see 20 breeding pairs firmly established in the area. The Department of Natural Resources and other partner organizations have been hard at work trying to ensure their survival by building artificial nesting platforms and doing whatever else might assist the birds in their attempts to breed successfully. What must have seemed painstaking work back then has now yielded fine results. By 1989, the birds were downgraded from endangered to threatened. Just last year there are estimated to be over 120 breeding pairs in Wisconsin, spread across 20 different counties in the state. Now, it seems that there are about 500 nesting pairs in the area!

Since it seems that local trumpeter swan populations are well and truly on the way to recovery, officials are now faced with the task of deciding whether or not to remove them from their endangered species list. Choosing to de-list the bird species in Wisconsin will not leave it completely unprotected, as it will still fall under the safeguard of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Natural Resources Board will make the final decision whether or not to de-list the bird at its official meeting in January 28, 2009.