Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Commonly Known Swan Species

Swans are the larges and generally considered the most beautiful of the waterfowl. A male is known as a cob, a female is a pen, and the young are called cygnets. Swans are large water birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Swans are creatures of habit, often mating for life and breeding in the same place year after year. The swans species are known to divide into the northern hemisphere swans which are Mute swan, Trumpeter swan, Whooper swan, Whistling or Tundra swan, Bewick swan while the southern hemisphere which are Black swan, Black-necked swan and Coscoroba swan.

The Mute Swan is common swan of parks and estates. It is native across Europe and Asia and has been introduced in many other areas, including parts of North America. In England, all Mute Swans were considered the property of the Crown until the 18th century. Mute swans, with their dazzling white plumage, orange bills and gracefully curved necks are among the most beautiful and instantly recognizable of all the wild birds.

On the other hand, the Trumpeter Swan is North America’s largest waterfowl and one of its rarest native birds. In many areas these swans face new problems such as lead poisoning, habitat loss, and the loss of their traditional migration patterns to southern wintering areas. Restoration efforts during the past fifty years have met with both successes and failures. Today, in a new century and with a new restoration technique, transportation of birds to other areas has resulted in a spectacular comeback.

The Whooper Swan is the Old World cousin of the Trumpeter Swan, breeding across the entire northern Palerctic. It is distinguished from Bewick’s Swan by its larger size and the yellow bill with a black tip. It is the noisiest of all the swans, constantly calling “hoo, hoo, hoo” while in flight. Unlike the Mute Swan, it tends to carry its neck stiffly erect.

The Tundra Swan consists of two distinct subspecies, namely, the Whistling Swan of North America and the Bewick Swan of Eurasia. The Whistling Swan differs in appearance from the Bewick Swan in the amount of yellow it has on its bill. The Whistling Swan has a yellow teardrop in front of its eye whereas the Bewick Swan has almost half of its bill covered on yellow.
Another type is the Black Swan which is native to most of Australia, including Tasmania. The populations are thriving in New Zealand and there are some free-living birds in Sweden. The Black Swan is the most social of the swans and during the breeding season will often nest in loose colonies. Most other swans will not tolerate other pairs anywhere near their nests.

As for Black-necked Swan, these beautiful birds are native to southern South America. The sexes are similar in plumage. They flock most of the year but are quite territorial when breeding. The males will chase other waterfowl, and almost anything else, from the vicinity to the nest. Incubation will last 36 days until the clutch of 4-5 hatches. The cygnets spend much of their time on the parents’ back when not feeding.

The Coscoroba Swan was given its name because of the call that it makes, and on a warm summer night here in the Northeast part of the US captive-bred Coscoroba Swans will seemingly spend the entire night calling. One bird will start a procession and the others will follow. The cob makes a high-pitched "coscoroba" call whereas the pens are much deeper in tone.
Swans are devoted parents, keeping a watchful eye on their brood, allowing them to ‘hitch a lift’ on their backs and diligently teaching them how to feed on the underwater plants which will form the main part of their diet. The family group remains together until the winter or following spring when the juveniles are evicted from the breeding territory. Young birds may then join flocks of non-breeding swans, and often remain in these colonies for two or three years until they are old enough to breed. They will eventually form a pair bond and begin the search for a vacant nesting territory.

Andrew Grey is the author of "The Essential Beginners Guide To Raising Swans". If you would like to learn more about this topic, please visit: http://www.howtoraiseswans.com

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