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.
Common Name Mute Swans – Tame Swans
Binomial Name – Cygnus olor
- Kingdom Animalia
Family Anatidae WaterFowl
Terms Used for Groups of Swans
a Ballet or Team of Swans
a Bank of Swans
( shore, coast, embankment, bankside, border, verge,
boundary, margin, rim, fringe)
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
a Wedge of Swans (flying in a V)
a Whiteness of Swans
- CLICK on Photos to ENLARGE Images *
Ballet or Team of Swans
Aerie – Aierie (English) The Nest, the Nest Site.
Brood Swans – Adult Swans Paired for Nesting.
Brood (adjective) – Kept for Breeding.
Brood (verb) – To Sit upon Eggs to hatch, as a Bird; Incubate.
With Good Health and Care Males may Live 25-50 years.
Maiden Swan – An Adult Female Swan that has not yet Nested.
Generally from One Year to her Third Spring..
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.
Pen – During Nesting Time the Female Parent of a Clutch of Eggs.
Brood (verb) – To Sit upon Eggs to be Hatched (Incubate.)
With Good Health and Care a Female Mute Swan may Live 20-30 years.
Females have a higher Mortality Rate during Nesting.
Dam – The Female Parent of a Brood of Cygnets.
Brood (verb) – To warm, protect, or cover (young)
with the Wings or Body.
Nesting – The Period of time when the Swans lay their Eggs,
and Incubate them to Hatch.
Patrolling – While the Female Swan is “Sitting” on their Nest,
the Male will “Patrol” the Nesting Site Area.
Feathering the Nest – Before laying her Eggs in the Nest,
the Female will Rub/Preen loose Breast Contour Feathers into the Nest Cavity.
Clutch – A Group of Eggs in the Nest that will be Incubated.
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.
Imprinting – In Swans – A Newly Hatched Cygnet fixes its attention on the first object it Sees, Hears or Touches after it Hatches.
The Downy Cygnets will Attach – “Imprint” and follow this Object, usually its Parent.
Brood – A Number of Young produced or Hatched at one time.
Cygnet – A Young Swan from Hatching until One Year Old.
Four Day Old Cygnet.
Cygnet Three Months Old.
Six Month Old Cygnet
Nine Month Old Cygnets.
Downy Cygnet – The Stage before Feathers grow In.
Cygnets are covered with a Thick, Soft Down upon Hatching.
Once Healthy Cygnets are Fluffy Dry they are ready to Swim with their Parents.
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.
Feathered Out – At about 4-5 Months of Age,
Cygnets have the their First Full Plumage.
Royal Cygnets are Smoky Grey.
Polish Cygnets are Creamy White.
When the Young Swans are Paired, ready to Mate and Nest…
they will leave this Group and find their own Territory.
Grey Birds, Grey Swans – Young, but Full Grown – Swans in the Grey Plumage of Immaturity: The Stage between Cygnet and Blue-Bill.
Blue-Bill – A Young Swan up to its Second Autumn – in Adult Plumage, but not having attained its full Adult Bill Coloration.
Polish Mute Swans (Cygnus olor ‘immutabilis’)
are a leucistic form of Mute Swan.
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.
The Polish Mute Feet are Light Cocoa Brown to a Rich Chocolate Brown. Their Beaks are more Orange than Red.
As Cygnets, the little Polish Females have Pale Pink Feet and Creamy White Down.
The Half Polish Cygnet Males tend to have Smokey Grey Feet and Beige Down. They are General Classified as “Royal.”
You Can Not Determine a Cygnet’s Sex by their Coloration.
Royal Mute Swans – Have Very Black Feet, their Beak is a darker Red.
Royal Swan Cygnets – have Black Feet, Darker Blue-Grey Down
and Black Beaks.
A Game of Swans – All the Swans in a Given Area and the Property of a Single Owner.
Full-Winged – NO Alteration of the Wing/Wings to prevent Flight.
A “Rogue” Swan is usually Full-Winged..
They Fly on to your Pond from Out-of-the-Blue.
If you have NO Swan to begin with.. Great ! Enjoy.
BUT, if you have Swans a “Rogue” will MESS-UP Everything.
Some “Rouge” Swans have been Feral for a While.. more Wild.
Some “Rogue” Swans simply flew from their Home Pond to Explore.
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 of Hatching.
It is large in 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.
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.
Beak-Bill – 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..
Swans do not have much Bite Pressure.
They are able to “Pinch.”
Maybe causing a Scratch if you pull away.
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.
It 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.
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.
Lamellae – The Serrated Edge along the Bill/Beak is called the Lamellae.
This aids straining water as the Swans eat Watery Foods.
Plumage – The Feathers
A Mute Swan has over 25,000 Feathers to be replaced Annually.
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.
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..
The Stage after the Large Wing Feathers have fallen out.
The Swans look “Shaggy” when they hold their Wings in Display.
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 can BLEED.
These Blood Vessel in the Feather Shaft will atrophy over time.
In Swans it closes horizontally (side to side) across the Eye instead of up and down like a normal Eye Lid.
Socialized – Frequent Interaction with Friendly People.
These Swans will come for Food Item and Treats.
Watch Males for Aggressive Behavior
Changes during Mating-Nesting Season.
UnSocialized – Swans will keep their Distance when People Approach. They are Less Vulnerable to Humans who might harm them.
Display – When Swans hold their Wings up in the Beautiful “Display” of their Feathers. More frequent during Mating Season.
Posturing – Males moving in a STIFF Posture.
Seen more Frequently during Mating and Nesting Season.
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.
Be Careful.. This may lead to the Swan Flying at you.
Move to a Safe Place.
“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.
This is their Job. Try to give him SPACE and understanding.
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 ! !
Flapping – A Stretching, Flapping Action of the Wings to work the Swans muscles and realign their Wing Feathers.
Wing-Tipping – Running and Flapping over the Surface of the Water.
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.
Oil is rubbed through the Feathers to aid WaterProofing for Buoyancy.
Preening Fluffs Air into the Feathers for Insulation.
For Swans “Preening” is also a Social Behavior.
They will stand along a Bank together and Preen.
Expressing an Acceptance of each other.
It Secretes an Oil (Preen Oil)
This Gland is found between the Back and
the Tail under a Flap of Feathers. See Image.
The Waxy Secretion is released to the surface of the Skin through a Grease Nipple-like Nub.
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 – Oiling the Feathers aids the trapping of Air
in the Feathers.
Along with the Air in the Lungs…. Swans FLOAT…..
Keel – The Breast Area.
Heel – The Hind Toe
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 animal species.
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 Testing… is the Standard Gender Sex-Testing.
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 show affection by Head Turning Breast to Breast.
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.
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.
Once they start to Cross their Necks, Mounting is about to take place.
Mounting – The Male will move to stand on the Female’s Back.
He will curl his Tail under the Female’s Tail.
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.
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.
Once the Sperm is Transferred to the Female, the Pair will turn and face each other and Foot Pedal Breast to Breast up above the Water.
They will Snort and Squeal.
The Joyful Bath The Happy Splashy Bath after Mating.
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.
Winter Wakes – Selected Areas of Water in which the Ice
is kept broken or open for the accommodation of Swans.
Waking Time – Periods of Hard Frost during which Wakes are
kept OPEN and the Swans 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.
WILD Swans – are Native Swans Living Free to Migrate.
Mute Swans – are Exotic Domestic Poultry.
Captive Swans – are Living in the Care of Humans.
Feral – Living Free Returning to Living Wild from a Domestic/Captive Life.Feral Animal/Swans that are living in the Wild.
They may have escaped from Private Ownership or Descended from Domesticated Pets.Examples: Full-Winged Swans or their Cygnets that simply fly away from Private Property.
Bumble Foot Sores – Painful, Swollen Sores on the Feet of Birds/Swans.
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.
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.
TAXIDERMY – Best to Keep Mute Swans from Living Feral & Free.
Addling – The Act of Causing Fertilized Eggs to Lose Viability,
Killing the Developing Embryo by Shaking, Piercing, Freezing
or Oiling, without Breaking the Egg Shells.
SPAY – 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 January 2018