Swans... they’re so beautiful! The mere sight of
them brings on a sense of peace and serenity, wouldn’t you agree? They
soar high in the skies above mountains and seas; they bathe
in pristine lakes and rivers and get admired for their beauty and grace
all along... I sure wished I was one of them! And I'm happy that
they're part of Canada's
Following are some facts about these water birds
and what they symbolize. I think we humans could learn a lot from these
most graceful and wise waterfowls. One thing we could learn from them
is their faithfulness towards their partner. They are known to mate for life,
though there are certain cases where they do take another partner; for
instance, when their mate gets lost
during migration, or when it dies (or the female can't produce eggs),
then it’s possible that the one left alone chooses another partner.
Another admirable factor is what the swan symbolizes: grace, divinity
There are three species of these birds living in
The first two are natives to North-America,
whereas the latter was introduced by Europe.
- the Trumpeter;
- the Tundra;
- and the Mute
Also, aside from the pictures and video links provided in each
swan section, do enjoy the special page with links to extra beautiful
pictures, videos and slides.
Symbolism and Background
Birds often symbolize the divine. They
are often viewed as gods in disguise, or they are the vehicles of gods
and goddesses. While the peacock is a symbol of material manifestation,
the swan stands for the ethereal. It represents the presence of divine
inspiration in our world.
Their association with wisdom and
creativity appears also among the Greeks who consider this bird to be
related to the nine Muses. It is said that when Apollo was born at
Delos, the event was marked with flights of these magical birds
circling in the sky.
Despite the fact that they are generally
considered to be the most beautiful of waterfowl, we can see in its
long, graceful, serpentine neck, a kinship to the snake. Therefore, in
Indian mythology, the swan (called “Hamsa” in Sanskrit) embodies the
union of “Garuda” (Indian mythological bird, usually depicted as part
human) and Naga (Sanskrit for snake), and since those two are enemies,
it also stands for the highest wisdom teachings concerning the union of
Belonging to the family "Anatidae"
(which also includes geese and ducks), the subfamily
"Anserinae", and the Genus "Cygnus", the
male is called a cob, the female a pen,
and the babies are called cygnets. The male is
slightly bigger than the female. These water
birds are very protective of their offspring, and a cob gets very
aggressive if anyone - human or animal - gets too close to the cygnets.
Don’t underestimate the force of their wings... it’s been known to
break a man’s leg! Imagine such powerful wings coming at you... you
better run for your life!
When these magnificent water birds look for a
mate, they display a courtship dance... I’ve heard
it’s one of the most beautiful things to experience. Unfortunately I
haven’t had a chance to witness it myself yet, but
here is a YouTube video
so you can see for yourself. During courtship they sometimes also
“kiss” by touching their bills. You can see the heart-shape that is
formed by their necks... how romantic, eh?
Swans are powerful birds, and can be very aggressive.
They bite, and their beating wings can break a person’s arm. Aggression
is displayed by the lowering of their neck, hissing, and
rushing forward. They get aggressive when protecting their territories
from strangers and other swans,
although they will tolerate ducks and smaller fowl (though Mute swans
may attack them too).
At the end of fall or the beginning of winter,
swans start to migrate
in flocks of twenty to forty birds. Cygnets
travel in their parent’s flock for at least a year, so they can learn
route, and where to feed, rest, etc. The birds in migration have been
clocked between 35-50 mph in
the air, and they prefer to fly at night. They can fly at heights of 28,000
and travel over 2,000 miles, often over sea. Like most
large migratory birds, they fly in the V-formation, which
helps them to cover long distances efficiently.
benefits all of the birds, though
the bird in the lead
position has to work the hardest. When it tires, another bird from
further back will quickly move into the lead position, while the tired
falls further back into one of the lines of the V. Even the two birds
trailing in the furthest positions of the V tire more quickly
those in the middle, so these positions are also rotated frequently in
order to give each bird a chance to lead the flock, as well as a chance
to enjoy the maximum benefits of being in the middle of the formation.
The center position requires the least effort.
spirit comes naturally to them; even the youngest members
flock quickly realize the benefits of the V-formation and how much
easier it is than to fly alone. Another reason that may
explain why birds fly in this formation is that it allows the
to communicate more easily and it provides them with good visual
contact of each other to keep the flock together. It also
minimizes the possibility of losing birds along the way, as they're
traveling across vast distances during the migration.
There are many similarities between the three types of swans that are
North America, but the differences in their appearance make it easier
to recognize what type of swan it is.
The easiest one to recognize is the Mute
swan, because it has an orange bill. It's harder to
differentiate between the Trumpeter
and the Tundra.
However, the Trumpeter is the largest of the three
swans, whereas the Tundra is the smallest. Trumpeters
longer necks in proportion to their body lengths than Tundras.
This is noticeable when the birds are either standing
or swimming. In flight, following
the takeoff run and just as they become airborne, Trumpeters will pull
into a shallow "S" curve, though only for a very brief moment
during their first wing beats to stay airborne. Tundras hold
necks straight during the takeoff run and initial
flight. This characteristic applies to both land and water takeoffs.
In mixed flocks, Trumpeter
swans may be the last birds to take off. They may stay one or
minutes longer than the Tundra swans when both types are together, but
entirely intermingled (Trumpeters remain at one end of the flock as a
of Trumpeters are angular, whereas Tundra postures are curved or round.
Mutes like to hold the neck curved gracefully in a well-defined "S"
shape, bill pointing somewhat
downward, while the wings may be arched over their back.
As for their wing span, weight and length:
Listening to their calls
(when they're flying overhead) is another way to identify them:
wing span 84-96 in.; weight 21-30 lbs.; length
about 60 in.
wing span 72-80 in.; weight 13-18 lbs.; length about 52 in.
wing span 82-94 in.; weight 20-30 lbs.; length about 57 in.
method for recognizing the type of swan is by looking at
have a resonant, sonorous, loud, low pitched,
have a high-pitched, often quavering call.
are generally silent but not "mute"; they make hissing
occasionally purring noises.
- Trumpeter - has a black bill
with a red border on lower mandible (the red border
may also be present on some Tundras); bill is longer than that
of the Tundra.
- has a black bill, usually with yellow spot
of varying size in front
of eye (this spot may be absent on some Tundras); smaller bill compared
- bill is orange with a prominent black knob
Pictures and Videos
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