Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)

Mute Swan on IceThe Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor) is the only resident breeding swan to be found in Britain, and is a very familiar bird, found along rivers and canals and in ponds and lakes in public parks.

The Mute Swan lacks the normal noisy call of other swans and the related geese and instead makes a series of hisses, grunts and snorting noises. In flight the wings make a loud 'throbbing' sound which helps keep them in contact.

The Mute Swan is a successful bird, with up to 25,000 pairs in the United Kingdom. It was one of the first birds to be protected by law, and was specified by name in a law of 1387. All Mute Swans were officially owned by the Crown, but many livery companies were given the right to own and eat swans, which had to be marked. Most of these 'rights' have lapsed, but the Dyers and Vintners Companies and the swannery of the Earl of Ilchester at Abbotsbury still survive.

The Mute Swan has a mixed diet of aquatic vegetation, grass, seeds, algae and small insects and amphibians. They normally eat by dipping their head under water while remaining on the surface, but can also be seen 'up-ending' to get into deeper waters.

The Mute Swan is very territorial, often defending an area of up to 11 acres. Rivals will be fought off or even killed.

The Mute Swan is a distinctive large bird with a graceful 'S' shaped neck and a pointed tail.

Adult birds have a white plumage, large black feet and an orange bill with a black base.

Juvenile birds are brown/ grey, but turn white by the autumn of their first year.

The Mute Swan forms permanent pairs which rarely split. The pair produces a first brood when three or four years old. They lay five to seven eggs in large nests built out of reeds or rushes, normally near water, on an island or in a reed bed, normally with a clear moat of water around it.

The eggs hatch after 36 days, and the birds fly after 120-150 days.

The juvenile birds form into winter flocks.

The Mute Swan lives on fresh water, and can be found on just about any suitable expanse of water from small ponds in parks to major lakes, rivers and canals.

Order: Anseriformes (Geese, swans, ducks)
Family: Anatidae (Swans, Geese, Ducks)
Genus: Cygnus (Swan)
Species: Olor (Swan)

Within the UK the Mute Swan breeds almost everywhere apart from small patches in the Welsh and Scottish mountains. Some birds stay in the same place all year, others move a short distance to form winter flocks.

The world population is split into two types. In central and northern Europe there is a permanently resident population, as in the UK. Elsewhere the Mute Swan is a migratory bird that breeds in areas of Russia, Siberia and in patches along a band from Turkey to eastern China and overwinters in northern Africa, around the Black Sea, in north-western India and Korea.

The Mute Swan has also been introduced in South Africa, New Zealand, the south-west corner of Australia and parts of New England.

Physical Details
Length: 125-160cm
Weight: 6.6 to 16kg
Lifespan: Oldest bird known is over 26 years old