Mute swan(Cygnus olor)
Genus – cygnus
Mute swans are large birds, measuring 144 to 158 cm. The wingspan is 2 to 2.5 meters. The two sexes are alike in appearance, except that males are generally larger than females. The plumage is white. They are best distinguished from North American swans by the knob at the base of the upper bill, and the color of the bill itself, which is orange, with the tip and base colored black. The head and neck may sometimes be stained brown from water and mud containing iron.
Mute swans breed in the British Isles, north central Europe and north central Asia. They winter as far south as North Africa, the Near East, and to northwest India and Korea.
There is no mass migration, though in winter there may be gatherings numbering more than 100 individuals in open salt water. When swimming, a Mute swan holds its neck in a graceful curve with the bill pointing downward, as opposed to other swans, which carry their bills level and necks erect. Top flight speed is 50 to 55 mph.
The diet of Mute swans consists of aquatic vegetation, and small proportions of aquatic insects, fish, and frogs.
Adults are not paired for life, contrary to the stereotype of the 'pining swan' who has lost its mate. In fact, some have been observed to have as many as four mates, or even 'divorce' one mate in favor of another. However, established pairs are more successful breeders than non-established pairs and Mute swans do form monogamous pairs for at least a season.
Mute swans rarely nest in colonies. Nest sites are selected and breeding begins in March or early April. These swans either build a new nest or use a previously constructed mound, such as a muskrat house. The nest is large, made of aquatic vegetation, and lined with feathers and down. It is built well above the normal water level in swampy places near a pond or lake. It is possible for clutches of 5 to 12 to occur, but 5 to 7 is most common. The eggs are pale gray to pale blue-green. Incubation lasts 36 to 38 days. The chicks are brownish gray (gradually turning white within the next 12 months) and only remain in the nest for one day. The male may often take the first-hatched cygnet to the water while the female continues to incubate the remaining eggs. They are able to fly in about 60 days. Chicks can ride on the backs of their parents or under their wings. By the following breeding season the parents drive the young away. The cygnets then join flocks of other non-breeding swans, and during this time molt their feathers, becoming flightless for a short period of time. In the next two years, the cygnets begin to bond with a mate and begin to look for suitable breeding territory. Swans do not begin to breed until about their third year.The sexes share incubation, though the female spends the majority of time sitting, and the male usually stands guard.
Mute swans usually live less than 10 years in the wild.
To keep swans, you need a reservoir with clean water. By clean waternon-toxic and non-rotten water is meant. It doesn't have to be transparent. The reservoir can be of any size, but the larger it is, the more comfortable it will be for swans to live and the chance of getting offspring increases. The minimum size of the enclosure for a pair of swans is 3x3 meters. The minimum size of the pool is 1x1 meter. Even in such cramped conditions, swans can exist. The smaller the size of the pool, the more often you have to change the water there. In a 2-meter pool with a depth of 50 cm, with the content of a pair of swans, the water will have to be changed every day. In a natural pond, the water does not need to be changed, it just needs to be cleaned sometimes. It is advisable to carry out general cleaning of a small pond every year. If the pond is large, you can do it every few years.
In winter, when the temperature drops below zero, it is necessary to protect the reservoir from freezing. There are two ways to solve this problem:
- A compressor or a pump is installed on the reservoir and a system of pipes for pumping water or air, thus creating a constant movement of water, which prevents it from freezing.
- In winter, birds can simply be moved to a heated room with a small pond. You can divide the winter aviary into 2 zones, where only the pool area is heated, and the walking area is left on an unheated (outdoor) territory. The area of the zone range should be calculated not less than 5 square meters for each bird.
At temperatures below -15°C, it is better to transfer swans to a heated room with a temperature above -15 °C.
In captivity the diet of swans consists of grains: corn, wheat, barley, millet – this grain should always be in feeders with round-the-clock access to them for birds. In fact, swans are reluctant to eat dry grain, but it is necessary in their diet (especially in winter). In the spring and summerin the grain mix, it is necessary to add chicken feed enriched with protein, which is necessary for birds during the breeding season.
Juicy food should be the second half of the swan's menu. In winter, this is cabbage, lettuce and carrots. In summer, it is a variety of herbs from juicy herbs, such as: clover, dandelion, plantain. A small amount of grass is better to throw directly into the water. Swans eat a lot of grass, and if the reservoir has access to vegetation, the swans are happy to go ashore and graze, while eating the most palatable plants.
You should not give bread to swans, they often get sick from it and later die.
During the day, the swan drinks up to 5-6 liters of water. And this is the main reason why the water in the reservoir should be clean.
Breeding swans in captivity is not particularly difficult. In the center of the reservoir (if it is large enough), it is better to install a small island or raft with a minimum size of 3x3 meters. If it is a raft, it must be stable enough (to hold the weight of an adult). It is not recommended to build various structures on a raft. You can build a shelter from the sun and rain, no more. For a nesting pair on such a raft, in April (as soon as the ice on the rivers comes down), you need to put a large armful of hay, the rest of the work on the nest arrangement will be done by the birds themselves. In May, the female lays eggs. When the offspring appear, it is necessary to increase the amount of feed and put an additional feeder on the island.
During the breeding season, a pair of swans becomes aggressive towards other birds, so if there are other small birds in the pond, it is better to temporarily isolate them from the swans.