Mute Swans-revisited

Mute Swan


Mute Swan At Last Light, Jamaica Bay
Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography
Photo of the Day Winner ~ Better Photo

The Mute Swan is a member of the duck, goose and swan family. The name “mute” refers to it being less vocal than the other swan species. This large swan is mostly white in plumage with an orange bill bordered with black. It has a pronounced knob on top of the bill. Males are larger than females and the black knob swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the female’s. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious. The Mute Swan is one of the heaviest flying birds, with males (known as cobs)reaching 26lbs. The slightly smaller females (known as pens) weigh approximately 20 lbs.

Young swans are called cygnets. They are not usually bright white like the adults.
Their bill is a dullish grey-black for the first year. Their down feathers range in color from pure white to grey-buff. All Mute Swans are white at maturity, though the feathers (particularly on the head and neck) are often stained orangey-brown by the iron in the water.

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Mute Swan moulting, Jamaica Bay
Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography

During the swans molting period they can not fly. The moult takes about 6 weeks. In non-breeding birds this takes place usually during July. A pair with cygnets moult at different times, first the pen and then the cob in August to September so that one of them can always defend the young. This is a very stressful time for the bird. As you can see by the image above the swan is quite thin.

Mute Swans nest on large mounds that they build either in shallow water or at the edge of a lake. They are monogamous and will reuse the same nest each year if possible. Male and female swans share the care of the nest and the cygnets once they fledge. Families usually feed together. Mute Swans feed on a wide variety of vegetation. Most commonly are the submerged aquatic plants which they reach with their long necks. Each year, the swans eat millions of pounds of underwater aquatic vegetation which provides essential habitat for waterfowl, fish, and shellfish. The aquatic vegetation is also needed to improve water quality. Mute Swans are widely viewed as an invasive species. There numbers are rapidly growing. The swans impact on other waterfowl and native ecosystems have drawn negative attention . They are protected in some states, but not others. Some states are attempting to control Mute Swan numbers. The image of the moulting Mute Swans along with two other images showing the moult were purchased by The Open University of Israel to include in their upcoming text book.


Mute Swan
Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography


Mute Swan
Image © 2012/Denise Ippolito Photography

These birds are elegant and fun to photograph. Capturing unique poses and beautiful displays are always enjoyable to me. I’ve sold 3 images of Mute Swans to be used in a text book and 6 prints of Mute Swans to be framed. It seems ironic that I have been told by most birders and photographers that they are an invasive species that no one cares about and that they are very common and not worth the time to photograph. Perhaps all living creatures have their place on Earth :)

*****

References:
http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/issues/restoration/non-natives/workshop/mute_swan.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mute_Swan


______________________________________________________________ denise ippolito





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11 Responses

  1. denise says:

    Joe, I agree :) thanks for stopping by.

    David, thank you kindly!

    Tommy, Thank you so much :)

    Ram, that is lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sheila Bogart says:

    I was so distressed to read that most people find swans a nuisance!
    I love them and am always on the lookout for them! I never pass up an opportunity to photograph them. Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall they never fail to delight me!
    I guess I should be happy…their loss, my gain!
    Love all your pics!

  3. Susan Dimock says:

    Nice, Denise. I like this post. I never get tired of shooting images of local domestic geese on a pond near by where I live. You have made the common uncommonly beautiful in your images.

  4. Denise, these images are beautiful. You have captured the gracefulness of these birds perfectly. I hear the exact same comments as you do too. In my opinion there is no such thing as not being worth the time to photograph. What may be common here is uncommon or non-existent elsewhere in the world. Lovely post :)

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