A site dedicated to the proper care and general information of mute swans

Swan Keeping Terms

June 20th, 2014 | Posted by LadyNerkle1 in Swan Keeping Terms - (Comments Off on Swan Keeping Terms)


Learn the Terms Used by SWAN KEEPERS.  
Many Behaviors you will Observe are Common to Swans in General.

  This is a Fun Topic Page.

Tame White Swans

               Common Name Mute Swans – Tame Swans

                                        Binomial NameCygnus olor

  • Kingdom           Animalia
    Phylum             Chordata
    Class                    Aves
    Order                  Anseriformes
    Family             Anatidae WaterFowl
    Genus                 Cygnus
    Species               olor

Terms Used for Groups of Swans

a Ballet or Team of Swans
a Bank of Swans  – on Shore, Coast, Embankment, Boundary, Margin.
a Bevy or Herd of Swans
a Lamentation of Swans – an Expression of Great Sorrow.
a Drift of Swans – on Water. 
a Game of Swans
a Wedge of Swans in the Air – Flying in a V.
a Whiteness of Swans

  • CLICK on Photos to ENLARGE Images 

Bevy of Tundra Swans Bevy, Bank, Herd –  A Collection of Swans (General)Mute Swan Cygnets

Group of Swans

Ballet or Team of Swans      

Group of Swans

Drift of Swans – on Water.
Drift of Mute Swan Cygnets
Mixed Population –
A Variety of Waterfowl Living Together.

Migrating Tundra Swans
A Game of Swans  – Taking to Air..
A Feral Mute Swan    Taking to Air..    He is Full Winged.
Mute Swan Flying

A Wedge Tundra Swans
   Wedge, Flight – A Collection of Swans – Swans in Flight. 

Group of SwansA Whiteness of Swans

Aerie - Mute Swan Nesting Site

Aerie – Aierie (English)   The Nest, the Nest Site.

Swan Nest Aerie

Baran SwansBarans –  Swans in their third year, but which are not yet Breeding.

Nest Breeding Mute Swans

Brood Swans –   Adult Swans Paired for Nesting.

Brood (adjective) Kept for Breeding.

Brood Sitting Mute Swan

 Brood (verb) To Sit upon Eggs to Hatch, as a Bird; Incubate.

Mute Swan Cob 
Cob –
The Male of a Pair of Breeding Swans:
  – cob, from Middle English cobbe  – Leader of a Group.
Used for the Male during the Breeding Season.

With Good Health and Care Males may Live 25-50 years.

Mute Swan Sire with Cygnet
 Sire –  The Male Parent of a Brood of Cygnets.

Maiden Swan

Maiden Swan – An Adult Female Swan that has not yet Nested.
Generally from One Year to her Third Spring..

Swan Quill Feather Pen

PEN In a Time Gone-by, Swan Primary Flight Feathers were
commonly use for Quill Pens.  The Female “Pen” has the Nicest
Medium Sized Wing Feathers.  And she will Moult First in Early Summer.

Mute Swan Pen with Clutch

Pen –  During Nesting Time the Female Parent of a Clutch of Eggs.

“Brood Patch” Summary:
By Shedding Contour Feathers from the Pen’s Breast-Abdomen into the Nest..
The Patch of Thinner Feathers Allows the Female’s Body Heat to Transfer
to the Incubating-Developing Eggs..Mute Swan Brood Patch

Brood (verb) –  To Sit upon Eggs to be Hatched – Incubate. 
Brood - Sitting to Incubate

With Good Health and Care a Female Mute Swan may Live 20-30 years.

Females have a Higher Mortality Rate during Nesting.

Mute Swan Dam with CygnetDam – The Female Parent of a Brood of Cygnets.

Brood (verb) To Warm, Protect,  or Cover their Young with the Wings or Body.

Mute Swans Nesting

Nesting – The Period of Time when the Swans Lay their Eggs,
and Incubate them to Hatch.

Nesting Swan Patrolling

Patrolling  – While the Female Swan is “Sitting” on their Nest,
the Male will “Patrol” the Nesting Site Area.

Feathering the Nest

Feathering the Nest  – Before laying her Eggs in the Nest,
the Female will Rub/Preen loose Breast Contour Feathers into the Nest Cavity.

Clutch of Eggs

Clutch –  A Group of Eggs in the Nest that will be Incubated.

Cygnet Hatching

Hatch  –  Young Birds Cracking and Emerging from their Egg Shell.

June 15th is the mean average date for Mute Swan Eggs to Hatch.
Early Spring Nests Hatch From Late April to the End of May.
Late Spring Nests Hatch by the First Week of July.

We Celebrate June 15th Annually as “Happy Hatch Day.”
 (A Swan’s Birthday Equivalent.)

     Sitting or Standing Sentry

During the Night Time Hours the Male Swan may Stand Guard
near the Nest while the Female and Cygnets are Sleeping.

Sitting Standing Sentry

Swans Imprinting

Imprinting In Swans – A Newly Hatched Cygnet Fixes its Attention
on the First Object it Sees, Hears or Touches after it Hatches.

Swans Imprinting

The Downy Cygnets will Attach – “Imprint” and Follow this Object, usually its Parent.

Swans Imprinting

A “Dam” is the Female Swan while she has Cygnets.Mute Swan Cygnets 24 Hours Old

 Brood –  A Number of Young Produced or Hatched at One Time.

Mute Swan CygnetsMute Cygnet Brood
 Nest Mates Cygnets that ALL Hatched from the Same Clutch.

Brood of Cygnets

Mute Swan Cygnets
Brood – 
A Family of Offspring or Young Raised under their Mother’s Care.

Mute Swan Family

Four Day Old Cygnet.Mute Swan Cygnet 4 Days

Cygnet  A Young Swan from Hatching until One Year Old.

Cygnets Three Weeks Old. Three Week Cygnets

Cygnet Three Months Old.

Three Month Cygnet

Six Month Old CygnetCygnet Six Months OldNine Month Old Cygnets.

Mute Swan Cygnets Six Months Old

************Downy Cygnets

Downy Cygnet  – The Stage before Feathers Grow In.
Cygnets are Covered with a Thick,  Soft Down upon Hatching.

Downy Swan Cygnets

Once Healthy Cygnets are Fluffy Dry they are Ready to Swim with their Parents.

Mute Swan Family

Mute Swan Cygnet

Swan Cygnets are Precocial Precocial –  Young Birds that are Relatively Mature and Mobile
 from the Moment of Hatching.

Swan Cygnets are Precocial.

Their Eyes are Open at Hatching.
They are Covered with (waterproofed) Down.  Ready to Swim.

Swan Cygnets are Ready to Leave the Nest as soon as they are Fluff Dry and Rest a Bit.  
When they Leave the Nest they are Ready to Eat on their own.

Swan Parents do not Feed their Young, but take the Cygnets to Places
where Food is Available for the Cygnets to Graze on.

Brood Call –  The Cygnets all have different Vocals.
They Chirp and Whistle to keep Track of Each Other.

Mute Swan Cygnets

Feathered Out –  At about 4-5 Months of Age,
Cygnets have the their First Full Plumage.

Royal Cygnets are Smoky Grey – Shades of Beige-Brown.Cygnet Feathered Out

Polish Cygnets are Creamy White.
Cygnet Feathered Out***************

 Juveniles Mute Swans

Juvenile –   A Young Swan from One until Three Years Old.
      Young Swans

Juvenile Groups – Young Swans which Live together in Large Groups.

From these Groups they will Generally find their Mates.
Juvenile Swan

When the Young Swans are Paired, Ready to Mate and Nest…
they will Leave this Group and Find their own Territory.

Young Swan Grey Blue

Grey Birds, Grey Swans –  Young, but Full Grown. 
Swans in the Grey Plumage of Immaturity.   
The Stage between Cygnet and Blue-Bill.
Grey Mute SwanBlue-Bill – A Young Swan up to its Second Autumn
– in Adult Plumage, but not having attained its full Adult Bill Coloration.
Blue Bill Mute Swans

             White Swans – All Swans in White, Adult Plumage.White Swans Mute SwansPolish Mute Swans  (Cygnus olor ‘immutabilis’)
are a Leucistic Form of Mute Swan.
Polish Mute Swans
A Leucistic animal has a Reduced Intensity
of Pigmentation while an Albino Lacks all Pigments.


When a Male Mute Swan Inherits only Melanin-Deficient Chromosomes, 
he will be a Polish Mute Swan. Polish Mute Swan CobThe Polish Mute Swan Feet are Light Cocoa Brown to a Rich Chocolate Brown.     
Their Beaks are more Orange than Red.Polish Mute Swan

As Cygnets, the little Polish Females have Pale Pink Feet and Creamy White Down.Polish Female Pink Feet

The Half Polish Cygnet Males tend to have Smokey Grey Feet and Beige Down.  
They are General Classified as “Royal.”Mute Swan Polish Royal ************

You Can Not Determine a Cygnet’s Sex by their Coloration.

Royal Mute SwanRoyal Mute Swans – Have Very Black Feet, their Beak is a darker Red.

Royal Mute Swan Female

Royal Mute Cygnet

Royal Swan Cygnets – have Black Feet, Darker Blue-Grey Down
and Black Beaks.

The Royal Cygnets will have All White Plumage after their First Moult.
Juvenile Mute Swans

(Swan) Farmer – A Lessee of a Game of Swans
Swan Farmer

Mute Swans

A Game of Swans – All the Swans in a Given Area and the Property of a Single Owner.

Full-Winged Mute Swan

Full-Winged – NO Alteration of the Wing/Wings to Prevent Flight.

A “Rogue” Swan is usually Full-Winged..
They Fly onto your Pond from Out-of-the-Blue.
If you have NO Swan to begin with.. Great !  Enjoy.

BUT, if you have a “Rogue” Swan they will MESS-UP Everything.


Female Rogue Swan
Some “Rouge” Swans have been Feral for a While.. more Wild.
Some “Rogue” Swans simply Flew from their Home Pond to Explore.

Rogue Swan

Butted – Pinioned – One Wing has the Distal Section Removed to Prevent Flight.                                                                                           Right Wing Pinioned

Pinion – In the Eastern United States most Swan Breeders will Pinion
Female Swans on the Right Wing and the Males Swans on the Left Wing.

A Properly Pinioned Swan will not be able to Fly.
A Sad but Necessary Procedure.

The Best and Safest Time to Pinion is within
23-72 Hours up to 14 – 20 Days Old.

Clipped to Keep Grounded.
Swan Clipped******************************************

Knob –  The Black Ball Shaped Structure just above the Beak
and between the Eyes of Mute Swans.Male Mute Swan Knob

It is Quite Large in most Healthy Males…  Larger during Mating Season.

The Female’s Knob is usually a Bit Smaller.
The Female’s Knob will also Increase in Size during Mating Season.

Female Mute Large Knob

The Knob is NOT a Good Way to Determine the Gender of Mute Swans.

– The Knob will Shrink if a Swan is Underweight.
– Some Mature Female Mute Swans have fairly Large Knobs.

– The Knob is mostly filled with Fat Tissue.
– It can Freeze during Extreme Cold.
– This may Result in Pink Scarring.

Mute Swan Beak

– Two Bony Projections —the Upper and Lower Mandibles.
A Bony Modification of the Skull.
An External Anatomical Structure of Birds which is used for Grooming/Preening, 
Manipulating Objects, Probing for Food and Eating..Mute Swan Preening

Swans do not have much Bite Pressure.
They are able to “Pinch.”   Maybe causing a Scratch if you Pull Away.

Mute Swan Beak

The Beak-Bill is Covered with a thin Keratinized Layer of Epidermis
known as the Rhamphotheca.

In most Species Two Holes known as Nares Lead to the Respiratory System.

Mute Swan Beak Lore Nail Nail  The Hard Black Tip on a Swan’s Beak is called the “Nail.”  
It is Very Hard like Horn.

The Nail is used to dig into Roots and Tough Fiber Parts of Plants.

Lore – The Area on the Head between the Eye and the Base
of the Upper Part of the Beak.                          

Mute Swan Nares

Nasal Structures    

A Nostril (or Naris, pl. Nares) is One of the Two Channels of the Nose,
from the Point where they Bifurcate to the External Opening.

In Birds they contain Branched Bones or Cartilages called Turbinates, 
whose Function is to Warm Air on Inhalation
and Remove Moisture on Exhalation.

Nether Chap – Lower Mandible of the Beak.

Swan Lamellae

Lamellae – The Serrated Edge along the Bill/Beak is called the Lamellae.
This Aids Straining Water as the Swans Eat Watery Foods.

Mute Swan Plumage

Plumage – The Feathers

A Mute Swan has over 25,000 Feathers to be Replaced Annually.Mute Swan Plumage

They Moult every Year during the Summer Months.

The Pens Moult during late June and the Cobs Moult during July.

For a Short Time the Swans will look a bit “Shabby.”
During this time they are Unable to Fly.

It takes about Four Weeks for all the New Feathers to Grow-In
and become Firm Enough for Flight.

The New Feathers are “Blood Feathers” and can Bleed PROFUSELY
if Broken or Cut.     

Swan Moulting

Molt – Moult  For Swans:  Moulting is the Periodic Replacement
of their Plumage by Shedding Old, Worn Feathers as New Ones Grow-In.
     Shabby or Shaggy…  Same Stage..
Shaggy Moulting 

The Stage after the Large Wing Feathers have Fallen Out.
The Swans look “Shaggy” when they hold their Wings in Display.

Swan Blood Feathers

Blood Feathers – The Stage of New Growth of the Larger Feathers
when there are Blood Vessels in the Feather Shaft.

Especially, the Tail and Wing Flight Feathers.
If Broken or Cut these Feathers WILL BLEED.Blood Feathers

These Blood Vessel in the Feather Shaft will Atrophy over Time.

Swan Blood Feathers

Swan Blood Feathers

Nictitating Membrane Mute Swan
Nictitating Membrane

A Transparent or Translucent Third Eyelid present in some Animals and Birds
that can be Drawn Across the Eye for Protection and to Moisten the Eye
while also Allowing Visibility.

In Swans it Closes Horizontally (side to side) Across the Eye instead of
Up and Down like a Normal Eye Lid.

They also Protect the Swan’s Eyes while they are in Flight.
These Translucent Eye Lids Protect a Swan’s Eyes while they are Looking under Water.

Dipping – Waterfowl Graze on Under Water Plants..

Socialized Swans

Socialized – Frequent Interaction with Friendly People.
These Swans will come for Food Item and Treats.

Socialized Swans
Many can be Hand Fed.  Many will “Nod” Hello as a Greeting.

Hand Feeding Swan

Watch Males for Aggressive Behavior
Their Behavior Changes during Mating-Nesting Season.

Swan Cob during Mating Season
They CAN NOT Help this.. It is the Cob’s Job to Protect his Female and Nest.
After Nesting Ends, most will be Easier to Spend Time With Again..

Feral – A Domestic Animal or Bird that is Living Off Private Property.Unsocialized Swans

UnSocialized Swans will Keep their Distance when People Approach.  
They are Less Vulnerable to Humans who might Harm them.

Unsocialized Swans

Mute Swan Display

 Display When Swans hold their Wings up in the Beautiful “Display” 
of their Feathers.    More frequent during Mating Season.

Black Swans Posturing

Posturing –  Males Moving in a STIFF Posture.
Seen more Frequently during Mating and Nesting Season.

Busking Male Mute Swan

Busking – This is a “Threat Display”... Usually by the Male Swan.

Especially when a Pair of Swans are Nesting
and the Male is Protecting their Territory.

Wings are Up and Wide, Head held on the Back,
Feet Together Powering through the Water –“Pushing Water.”Mute Cob Busking

Be Careful..  This may Lead to the Swan Flying at you. Move to a Safe Place.

Hormone Hell

“Hormone Hell” – As Mating and Nesting Season Approach,
the Male Swans become very Territorial and Aggressive.

Their Increasing Reproductive Hormones DRIVE them to Protect their Pond,
Female and Nest Area.  They will Chase and Defend.

Swan Cobs are “Hormones with Wings.”

This is their Job.     Try to give him SPACE and Understanding.

Aggressive Swan Behavior

Flog – Flogging – Swans Whip and Beat with their Wings in a Repeated Action
as their Primary Aggressive Defense.

The Power of a Swan’s Flogging Wings. . . HURTS ! ! 

Swan Pinion Joint

Swan Flapping

Flapping   A Stretching, Flapping Action of the Wings to Work
the Swans Muscles and Realign their Wing Feathers.

Swan Wing-Tipping

Wing-Tipping – Running and Flapping over the Surface of the Water.


Up-Ending – When Waterfowl Reach Down Underwater as far as possible.   
Their Tails will be Pointing Skyward.

Preening Mute Swan                     
(of Birds)

To Maintain Feathers in a Healthy Condition by Cleaning,
Arranging and other Contact to their Feathers with their Bill.

Swans may Preen One to Two Hours a Day.
Often done after their Splashy Bath.

WaterProofed Feather

Oil is Rubbed through the Feathers to Aid WaterProofing for Buoyancy.

Swan Preening Oil

Preening Fluffs Air into the Feathers for Insulation.

Preening Social Behavior

For Swans “Preening” is also a Social Behavior.

They will Stand along a Bank Together and Preen.

Expressing an Acceptance of Each Other.

Mute Swan Preen Gland                     
Preening Gland Uropygial Gland
A Preening Gland is Found in the Majority of Birds.

It Secretes an Oil (Preen Oil)   See Image.
This Gland is found between the Back and the Tail under a Flap of Feathers.  

The Waxy Secretion is Released to the Surface of the Skin through a
Grease Nipple-like Nub.Swan Preening Gland

The Swan Transfers this Oil to its Feathers by Rubbing its Head against
the Oil Nub and then Rubbing the Oil all over their Body.

WaterProofing Feathers

WaterProofing – Oiling the Feathers Aids the Trapping of Air in the Feathers.

Along with the Air in the Lungs….   Swans FLOAT…..

Swans Roost Sleep
Roost A Place where the Swans feel Safe to Rest and Sleep.

Keel Mute Swan

Keel –  The Breast Area.

Mute Swan Heel-Hind Toe

Heel – The Hind Toe                              

Mute Swan Cloaca

Cloaca -Vent  In Zoological Anatomy, a Cloaca is the Posterior Opening that Serves as
the only Opening for the Intestinal, Reproductive, and Urinary Tracts. of certain Bird Species.
The Cloaca is Present in Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, most Fish, and Monotremes.

Vent – The Opening for the Elimination of Digestive Waste.

Cloaca – Vent
The Area where Gender Sexing might be Determined.
If you Locate a Penis… It is a Male…
But, not finding it DOES NOT mean you have a Female…
Not a Sure Method.

DNA-Feather Sex Testing

DNA-Feather Testing… is the Standard Gender Sex-Testing.

Sing-Snorting – 
A Happy Song of Snorts into the Air.
We have seen this often when a Swan is Alone and is Possibly Calling to Find other Swans.

Pair-Bonded Swans

Pair-Bonding –  Male and Female Swans Develop an Attachment to each other.

They will Spend most of their Time Together.

They will learn to Work and Play together,
Court, Mate, Nest and Raise their Young together.

Courting Swans

Courting Swans Show Affection by Head Turning Breast to Breast.

Often they will Head Nod and Snort into the Air.
Courting Mute SwansCourting Mute Swans This Behavior will Increase as Mating Season Starts.

Swans Mating Ballet

Mating – I refer to this as the “Mating Ballet.”

Mating Ballet (noun)
A Classical Dance Form demanding Grace and Precision 
and Employing Formalized Steps and Gestures Set in Intricate,
Flowing Patterns to Create Expression through Movement.

Dipping Side by Side

Swan Mating is a Beautiful Dance moving Side by Side around the Water
Alternately “Dipping” their Heads into the Water.  This may last 3-20 Minutes.

Crossing Necks

Once they Start to Cross their Necks, Mounting is about to take Place.

Male Swan Mounting

Mounting – The Male will Move to Stand on the Female’s Back.
He will Curl his Tail under the Female’s Tail.

The Female is PUSHED Under the Water.
Male Pulls Female Head Up

The Male GRIPs the Back of the Female’s Neck and Pulls her Head up.
– The Female will Squeal.

This only takes a Few Seconds.

Swans Cloacal Kiss

Cloacal Kiss –  Mute Swans Mate for Reproduction by the “Cloacal kiss.”

Pressing their “Cloacae” together for only a Few Seconds.
Just enough time for the Male’s Sperm to be Transferred to the Female.

Swans Rising-Up

The Rising-Up
Once the Sperm is Transferred to the Female, the Pair will Turn and Face Each Other 
and Foot Pedaling Breast to Breast up above the Water.

They will Snort and Squeal.

The Joyful Bath   The Happy Splashy Bath after Mating.

Swans Joyful Bath

Swans Play ChasingPlay Chasing –  A Silly, Happy Game of Tag..   Lots of Splashing.

Lettuce Play "Let Us Play"

Lettuce Play – “Let Us Play”

Swans LOVE Lettuce.
If you Give them a Head of Lettuce.. they will Play with it,
Sharing the Fun of Pulling the Head Apart.Mute Swan Let Us Play


Winter Wakes –  Selected Areas of Water in which the Ice
is Kept Broken or Open for the Accommodation of Swans.

Winter Wake for Swans

Waking Time –  Periods of Hard Frost during which Wakes are Kept OPEN 
and the Swans are Tended and Fed.

Wintering – The Collecting into Convenient Places of all Swans in a Given Area.

Making and Keeping OPEN Wakes (Water) for them.
Tending and Feeding Swans during Periods of Snow and Prolonged Frost.

Winter Support for Swans*******************************************

WILD Swans –
are Native Swans Living Free to Migrate.Wild Tundra Swans
Mute Swans – are Exotic Domestic Poultry.Mute Swans
Captive Swans –
are Living in the Care of Humans.Captive Mute Swans
Feral Living Free Returning to Living Wild from a Domestic/Captive Life.Feral Mute SwansFeral Animal/Swans that are Living in the Wild.
They may have Escaped from Private Ownership or Descended from Domesticated Pets.Feral Mute SwanExamples: Full-Winged Swans or their Cygnets that Simply Fly Away from Private Property.Discard Pet Mute Swan

Some are Discarded Pets, no longer Wanted and turned Loose to Fend for themselves.Swan Keeping Terms


Swan Chaperon Fence

Chaperon Fence –  A Safe Place for Introducing A New Swan to a Pond.
This is a Safe Way to Introduce Swans to Each Other.

Bumble Foot Sores – Painful, Swollen Sores on the Feet of Birds/Swans.
  Swan Bumble Foot Sore

Excessive Pressure or Breaks in the Skin may cause these to form.
These Infected Sores Need Attention, they may Result in Permanent Limping, Difficulty Walking.  
The Infection may become Septic, Spreading through the Body… Increases Mortality.

Swan Keeping Terms
Aviculture – Raising and Care of Wild Birds in Captivity, for the Breeding of Game Stock,
the Perpetuation of Declining Species, or for Display and Education.Swan Keeping Terms

Culling – Reduction of a Wild Animal Population by Selective Slaughter.Swan Keeping Terms

TAXIDERMY – Best to Keep Mute Swans from Living Feral & Free.
Swan Keeping Terms
– The Act of Causing Fertilized Eggs to Lose Viability,
Killing the Developing Embryo by Shaking, Piercing, Freezing
or Oiling, without Breaking the Egg Shells.Swan Keeping Terms

OILING – SPOILING EGGs – Coating Fertile Eggs to Prevent Hatching.Swan Keeping Terms

– Sterilize a Female Mammal by Removing their Ovaries.

NEUTER – Sterilize a Male Mammal by Removing their Testicles.

Remember Swans are NOT Mammals..
Their Reproductive Organs are Not Anatomical Similar.

Information Compiled by (C) Linda M.Sweger                   UpDated    May 2021

SWAN Lovers