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Reddish Vale Country Park

Mute swans are one of Britains largest and heaviest birds.

 

Mute swans are very large white birds with a long elegant neck. The bill is orange or pinkish in colour with black on the lower part and around the nostrils. Between the eyes and the bill is an area of featherless black skin that forms a bump over the bill, this is bigger in males. Mute swan young are known as cygnets and have grey feathers and a pale bill, they also lack the hump on the bill.

 

Mute swans establish strong bonds when they pair up. They do not always pair up for life, as it is widely believed, but instead may have as many as 4 mates during their lifetime.

 

Mute swan nests are built on the ground and are built of twigs and reeds. The female lays 5-9 large white, green tinged eggs. The female performs most of the incubation duties, while the male keeps watch, occasionally the male may help incubate the eggs for a short periods.

 

Eggs hatch after 35 days and after a day or two the cygnets will take to the water with their mother. Mute swans are very protective of their young and will aggressively defend them from preditors and humans. The cygnets will sometimes climb under the adults wings for shelter, this helps keep them warm and protects then from predators.

 

Swans were, for many centuries, kept for food, it is thought that this prevented them from being hunted to extinction as they were in other parts of Europe. Nowadays, swans are under threat from different sources. As swans ingest grit to help them digest food they sometimes accidentally pick up pieces of lead discarded by anglers. This breaks down in their stomachs and causes muscular and nerve damage. Affected swans have kinked necks because their muscles are too weak to support their necks properly. Lead fishing weights are now banned in Britain, but many still remain at the bottom of ponds and rivers.

Mute Swan

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Reddish Vale Country Park

Weight, 14-30 pounds,

Wingspan 8ft,

Lifespan, upto 15 years in

the wild,

Diet, aquatic vegetation, insects, snails, frogs,

small fish.

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Mute Swan