Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Cygnus olor
Mute Swan


Distinguishing Features - The mute swan is a large bird, measuring 1.4 - 1.6 m and weighing 9 - 13 kg. The wingspan is 2.1 - 2.4 m. Males and females are alike in appearance, except that the male is generally larger. Its plumage is white, and it is best distinguished from North American swans by the knob at the base of its upper bill, and the color of the bill itself--orange, with the tip and base colored black. The head and neck of these swans may sometimes be stained brown from water and mud containing iron.


Mute Swan Palearctic, Nearctic: The mute swan breeds from the British Isles, through north central Europe, Scandinavia and north central Asia. It winters as far south as North Africa, the Near East, and to northwest India and Korea. It has been successfully introduced in North America, where it is becoming a widespread species.

Freshwater lakes, freshwater rivers; the mute swan is the common swan in the wild, in parks or on country estates in Europe. In winter, it is more common on marine waters. It resides on waters of well-sheltered bays, open marshes, and on many ponds built by damming creeks.


The diet of the mute swan consists of aquatic vegetation, and small amounts of aquatic insects, fish and frogs. Mute swans do not dive, but plunge their head and neck below the water's surface instead. Swans feed in deeper waters than the ducks and other waterfowl that share their habitat, and thus do not compete with them for food. Rather, food is made more readily available to other birds by swans because parts of the plants they consume float to the surface while the swans are feeding.


Mute swans are usually silent, as the name suggests. But adults sometimes snort and make hissing noises or puppy-like barking notes, though the sounds are not far-reaching due to their straight trachea. Also, the sound of the wings during flight, which has been described as a musical throbbing or humming, is very audible.

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