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Swan Expert

Hi John

So sorry to hear about the death of your swan. The male may or may not take care of the cygnets. Regardless, the predator may return and the cygnets and remaining parent will be at risk. Check to see if: the adult bird is allowing the cygnets to remain close to its side, feeds the cygnets by pulling submerged aquatic vegetation to the surface so the cygnets can eat, takes the cygnets to the bank or nest allowing them to rest and dry out. These behaviors will indicate if the cygnets are being care for by the parent.

If the cygnets are helplessly trying to keep up with the parent or the parent leaves them for a long period of time, neglects feeding or keeps the cygnets in the water for great lengths of time, then care is not being properly given and you may need to rescue the cygnets.

Think twice about taking the cygnets, and only if you are sure the cygnets are in immediate danger. Swans will imprint on people and once they begin thinking they are human, they can never be released on their own outside of a very controlled setting. If the cygnets are in a captive setting (never to leave your habitat, they need to be pinioned by a licensed veterinarian at 1-3 weeks of age–No later).

Most states look at Mute Swans as an invasive species (which they are not-but by labeling as such renders them open to killing if they fly or are on a public lake. The reason is to open their habitats for introduction of the larger Trumpeter Swans for Trophy Waterfowl hunting). So, you have to be careful about maintaning cygnets or alerting to the fact that you have breeding Mute Swans. If these are wild birds, then there isn’t much you can do about pinioning. Just hope they can survive on their own if they fly away.

There is no foolproof way of telling a male or female swan by its knob. Yes, males usually have larger knobs, but with no comparison to the other parent, a sexing is almost impossible. Furthermore, we have seen male swans with smaller knobs and female swans with larger knobs. So, knob size can be deceiving. The only guaranteed method of sexing a swan is to submit a feather (taken by a veterinarian as it has to have genetic material attached),to a reliable veterinary DNA Sequencing lab for testing.

There are various behaviors that can delinate a male swan from a female swan, breeding behavior during copulation (the male will be on the top position.
Nesting behavior, the male swan primarily builds the nest with the help of the female, the female primarily sits on the nest and eggs. Depending on individual behavior, some males may relieve the females during resting periods to sit on the eggs or they will sit on the nest nearby the eggs. The female is the primary incubator of the eggs.

After hatching, the female swan will allow the cygnets to climb aboard her back and ride around under her wings when the cygnets get tired. Male swans do not allow this behavior.

Since the period of breeding and nesting is over, the only behavior you can observe that may help in the identification of gender is the riding on the back by the cygnets.

Do Not introduce any new swan to this mix until after the cygnets are more than 6 months of age and Only when you have had a proper sexing of the remaining parent.

Male swans usually do not re-pair with another mate if their mate dies. However, this is an individual attribute and your swan could take on another mate. Female swans will usually re-pair with another swan. The biggest issue is to determine gender. If you place a Male swan in the habitat and your swan is a male, they can seriously injure each other to the point of accidental death to one or both of the swans. Same with two females, so you must have DNA Sequencing used to determine the gender of your swan and the gender of the swan being introduced.

If you get another swan, the new swan must be placed in an introductory pen (totally enclosed top to bottom so predators cannot climb in or dig under the pen to attack the swan. The pen must be 1/2 on land and 1/2 in water with feeder enclosed,zero entrance with no steep banks or abrasive substrate to prevent leg or foot injuries).

The new swan must be kept in the pen for approximately 2 weeks to allow it to familiarize itself with you, its new environment, your feeding system and your swan. Any signs of aggressiveness by either bird means this pairing is not going to work and you will need to find the new bird a safe and good home. Check with whomever you get the new swan from about their return policy because they may not issue you a refund and may not take the swan back.

If after 2 weeks there is no sign of aggressiveness, the new swan should cautiously be released on to the pond with your swan. Have a rescue craft (boat, kayack, canoe) ready in the event a rescue is needed. If either swan is being beaten or constantly chased, not allowed in or out of the water, the pairing is not working and you will need to find the new swan a safe and good home. You will need to have some way of temporarily identifying the new swan from your swan. Leg or neck bands can be used, but these identification tools can cause an injury to the birds if they become entangled with something in the habitat, therefore should be used temporarily or not at all.

Yes, the male can bond and mate with its female offspring. Swans are not mammals, so their is very limited possibility of any genetic abnormalities occurring from this pairing. The major issue is that swans do not sexually mature until 2 years of age. For this reason, the male could significantly injure the young swan during breeding. It is for this reason that the younger swans should be seperated from the older swans at 6-8 months of age.

We hope this info is of benefit. The Regal Swan