November 2015 Bird Photo of the Month

Shall we dance? © Douglas Lange
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

How graceful and elegant is the Mute Swan! We associate them with music and dance. Partners for life, in mating rituals, they synchronically swim. With S curved necks bending and turning, white wings held tucked, yet feathers fluffed and tail participating as they pirouette together, dipping their heads in the water, and stretching their necks high, all in sync. Then suddenly, they turn in the other direction, seemingly on cue, engaging in a magnificent water ballet.

In North America, humans in the 1880s were so fond of the swans; they introduced them to lakes and ponds in their city parks where they thrived. Mute Swans, native to Eurasia, had few natural predators, and quickly spread to the countryside. Populations heavily concentrated in Michigan and the Great Lakes area, then spread to Eastern states southward along the Atlantic Coast. In Florida, the recent Breeding Bird Atlas reported six confirmed nesting areas, while shows sightings along both coasts, especially in the Orlando, and Lakeland areas. Douglas Lange photographed this Mute Swan in the reflection pool at Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales.

Mute Swans, large waterbirds, are voracious eaters. Males consume 35% and females 44% of their body weight per day, primarily feeding on aquatic plants. They use their bills to skim the surface plants or thrust their neck deep into the water, upending themselves to reach the bottom to uproot plants. With their appetite, as an invasive species, they may damage Florida’s ecology, particularly aquatic habitats. Along with human-generated pollution, and agricultural, suburban and urban development destroying Florida’s natural habitats, introduction of aggressive foreign wildlife completes the destruction. Since these swans tolerate being near to humans and thrive in degraded habitat inundated by invasive plants, Mute Swans may displace some of our native bird species. More of natural Florida is lost forever.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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