Some Little Known Facts About Swans

Graceful and beautiful, the swan has long fascinated us. Here are some interesting facts about the exquisite creature.

Is there a creature more beautiful and graceful than the swan?

If there is, I cannot think of what creature that might be. The beautiful snowy feathers and long graceful neck have created a picture that many artists have worked hard to recreate. There are logos, associations, organizations, home décor and more inspired by the beauty.

  • The mute swan is the one that most Americans and Europeans are familiar with
  • A swan mates for life
  • There are three species of swans found in North America:
  • Trumpeter: Black bill with red border on lower mandible; the red border may be present on some tundras. The eye is hard to distinguish, fading into the bill and the slope of bill is straighter.
  • Tundra: Black bill, usually with yellow spot of varying size in front of the eye; the spot may be absent on some. The eye is separate from the bill.
  • Mute: Orange bill with prominent black knob (called a caruncle) at base

  • The black swan is native to Australia.

  • The black necked swan is native to South America. 

  • The adult male is called a cob. He is the only known bird to have a penis.
  • He is both a devoted father and husband. He has been known to use a blow from the “knucklebone” of his wing to defend his family. His blow is said to be strong enough to break a man’s arm according to Donald and Louise Peattie in “Legend with Wings.”
  • The Mute Swan is perhaps the noisiest of all swans having eight different sounds in its repertoire
  • Swans can fly as fast as 50 to 60 miles per hour
  • Some have a wing span of 10 feet
  • Swans were nearing extinction in the 1930s in the U.S. but due to measures taken to protect them their population is again growing.
  • A baby swan or cygnet has a grey feathered coat until it reaches about 20 pounds. Then it too will become snowy white like its parents.

  • A baby swan pecks at the inside of the egg for 24 hours prior to making its entrance
  • The female swan is referred to as a pen
  • Visually the most noticeable difference between the male and female swan is size, unlike many other animals where the male and female are colored differently
  • The typical weight of a swan is from 11.3 to 15.88 kg (25 to 35 pounds) and height while standing alert 4 feet or 1.2 meters.
  • From the tip of the bill to the end of their tail they measure 5 feet or 1.5 meters.

  • The regal beauty is one of the reasons for the swan to be considered as a royal bird in England and all swans found in the open waters belong to the crown
  • A mother swan has a sound similar to a yipping puppy, which it uses to call the young to her
  • Swans are the largest known flying bird
  • They are not known to attack humans without cause, and actually can remember humans that have been kind to them
  • They dine off of aquatic vegetation, insects, tiny fish and tadpoles. Because they are able to reach far below the water’s surface, they have actually broken plants apart and left them floating on the water which enables smaller birds to find ready food.
  • The mute swan’s neck has 23 vertebrae, which is more than any other bird
  • Their life expectancy in a protected environment is as long as 30 years
  • In Canada the swans of Lost Lagoon have their wing tendons clipped to keep them from flying away. While they cannot fly they can raise themselves above the water surface for a quick get away or to protect their young.

Swans are another of the many marvels created by God. They have inspired art, music, literature and dance. Here is one more picture to enjoy, found in the book Marvels and Mysteries of Our Animal World.

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63 Responses to “Some Little Known Facts About Swans”
  1. IcyCucky Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 5:45 am

    This is so enjoyable to read, and see. Outstanding article..

  2. nobert soloria bermosa Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 5:59 am

    Hi Judy, nice article, so much to learn,thanks

  3. SunGoddess Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Great job, Judy! =)

  4. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Icy, Nobert and Sun Goddess, thank you for your kind support.

  5. Anne Lyken-Garner Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Such lovely pictures. I too think that the swan is the most graceful bird on earth.

    Very informative article Judy, Thanks for sharing.

  6. valli Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Beautiful pictures, Judy. Very informative article.

  7. Jared Stenzel Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    A wing span of 10 feet and capable of going 50-60 miles per hour? I never knew that about swans. It’s pretty interesting, great article!

  8. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Swans are so graceful and beautiful.They look so uninvolved with anything around them.

  9. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Anne, Valli, Jared, and Ruby, thank you for your support. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

    Take care.

  10. Dee Huff Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Gorgeous birds.

  11. quiet voice Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 8:12 am

    …Hi Judy, what a great job you did
    with this article. Beautiful pictures,
    and some many things, I did not know
    about this lovely bird. Thank you.

  12. Moses Ingram Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

    The pictures are beautiful, and so much information. Thank you.

  13. Sandra L. Petersen Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    So many interesting tidbits of information. I liked the photos you supplied, too. Excellent job.

  14. Cyn Bagley Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you.

    I really enjoyed the pictures.

  15. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 2, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Dee, Quiet Voice, Moses, Sandra, and Cyn, thank you for your kind remarks. Swans are so regal.

    Take care.

  16. Alexa Gates Says...

    On June 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

    swans are so beautiful! yet,can be extremely mean sometimes! One tried to charge my cousin.. it was funny :)

  17. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Alexa, I had a turkey charge me before. He kept nipping at me with his beak. Ouch! I have no problem eating them at Thanksgiving time. lol

  18. elna Says...

    On June 10, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Actually an ostrich is the largest bird

  19. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 11, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Elna, Thank you for mentioning that. I meant to say the largest flying bird. An ostrich can stand 9 feet tall and weigh 350 pounds. I would not want to walk around one that was flying, or even walking, if it was angry. lol

    Take care.

  20. misanthropope Says...

    On August 31, 2008 at 2:56 am

    this is a bit like ben franklin lobbying for the turkey as national bird, but my vote for “more beautiful and graceful than the swan” goes to the humble mallard duck.

  21. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On August 31, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Misanthropope, thank you for reading and commenting. I do have to agree with you in that mallard ducks are both beautiful and graceful. I love to watch them also.

  22. tossy Says...

    On September 19, 2008 at 9:14 am

    swans are great, they taste like chicken.

  23. bubblehead Says...

    On February 3, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    the thing about the pe*** was really weird. lol

  24. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On February 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Tossy, it seems that someone is always saying that something tastes like chicken.

    Bubblehead, that fact is interesting. That is why I included it.

    Thanks for reading & commenting. Take care & G♥d bless!

  25. chelsea Says...

    On March 23, 2009 at 4:56 am

    cool facts wonderful pictures

  26. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On March 23, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Chelsea, thanks for the comment. Take care & be blessed.

  27. Says...

    On May 19, 2009 at 5:44 am

    some factual errors – evolution has left the swan smaller than a condor

  28. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On May 19, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I have done a lot of research on this, so would like to know what you base your info on. I like to check sources against one another.

    Thank you.

  29. charlotte Says...

    On May 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    i love the web site it is the best in the whole world and always will be. Do you have eny more infomacen like what swans eat and what they do and stuff. Ilove swans and this is a good web site.

  30. charlotte Says...

    On May 26, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Some people say swans are buring but why they arnt just because some one or even some thing is difrent doesent mean it doesent blong they all have a place in the world and so does littel animals every thing is put in the world for a resen nothing is to small or to fat or even ugly because some one or some thing might change the world one day and we will relase we have been mean and nasty to them for what they looke like.
    thank you for redding this letter and remenber every one is inportent in there way.

  31. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On May 26, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Charlotte, they eat underwater vegetation, but will also eat grass and grains.

    Thanks for your lovely comments. Take care & stay well.

  32. zoey Says...

    On May 31, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    this is good but swans are not the largest bird…..

  33. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On May 31, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Zoey, as you can see in comment 18 & 19 that has been pointed out. I had meant to say largest flying bird and have submitted a fix. Thank you for pointing this out.

  34. sharon Says...

    On June 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    thanks judy great to read iv been waching to swans for the past 2years on the lake where i work and not long ago had 4cygnets great.

  35. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Sharon, thanks for commenting.Aren’t they gorgeous?

    Take care & God bless!

  36. Steve Austin Says...

    On July 27, 2009 at 4:32 am

    They may be the most beautiful but they are also the most aggressive, I have five living in my back garden

  37. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On July 27, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Steve, I wonder how difficult it would be to win their trust. I read they remember individual humans. We have a park where we can go feed them and they seem very friendly.

    Take care & God bless.

  38. razumtina Says...

    On October 22, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Swans are beautiful!

  39. lola Says...

    On October 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm


  40. Jean Graston Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Hi Judy,
    Thanks for the information, it was very interesting. Thought you may like to know the following.
    Earlier this year we had two swans on the lake in our local park; Sefton Park, here in Liverpool, they had 6 cygnets and were all doing well for about 3-4 weeks and then a terrible accident happened when a dog unfortunately killed the mother swan. Everyone was worried as to whether the father swan would stay with the baby swans or abandon them, however he stayed with them and has looked after them really well. Sometimes they all get a little spooked when people allow their dogs to enter the lake, but other than that people have been very good and have fed them regularly, as well as all the other ever expanding wildlife that has arrived at the lake over recent years.
    This has been lovely to watch over the last 6 months, and now the cygnets are nearly as big as their dad, and they have lost much of their grey feathers and are turning into beautiful graceful swans. We are obviously hoping that they will be as lovely and as protective to their own young as their wonderful father has been to them.
    Hope you found this interesting, many thanks Jean

  41. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On October 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Razumtina, Iola, and Jean, thanks so much for your support.

    Jean, that was a fascinating story. You should think of publishing it here.

  42. sardavis Says...

    On January 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    They are really pretty swan ever

  43. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On January 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Sardavis, swans are really graceful and pretty.

  44. Micah Says...

    On February 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Fascinatiing information, Judy. Did the guy ever get back to you with the Cali Condor info? (Just kidding.) I have a swan the has shown up in my local duck pond two weeks and I realized whoever was in charge of handing out beauty spared no expense on the swan. It swam up to about four away from my dog and I. It hissed like a snake twice (little freaky) but did not seem aggressive. It was as if it came over to say, “Enjoy my beauty.”

  45. Leianne Says...

    On May 10, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Should point out also that swans do not mate for life. i have worked in wildlife rescuefor years and peolple always worry when a new male swan appears and starts fighting with a resident pair..they always say the residents have been together for years and want us to stop the new male..however we keep ringing records of all the swans we deal with and know most of the ones within 25 miles and they definatly swap partners regularly and male swans will often have 2 families of cygnets living near each other on a stretch of river. we have even rescued pairs of swans from drained dams etc and put them in an enclosure with other swans for a few day until a new place is found for them and they often strike up new pair bonds with other swans in the enclosure.
    They may stay as a pair for a long time if no other swans are in the area, but if a newer better swan comes along they wouldnt think twice about having a new maye.

  46. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On May 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Micah, I have heard them “hiss” and seen them attack. Fortunately I was not the victim. lol

    Leianne, could it be that they are like us humans and some do and some don’t (mate for life)? One of the book on animals that I used as a source advised they do and so did some of the online sources, but they could be wrong. I have heard about certain females and males who have lost their mate and actually pined for them.

    Now I post my sources at the end of my article in case anyone needs further info or I need to refer back.

    Thanks for your support. Take care and God bless.

  47. shyenne Says...

    On June 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    i love this website its helping me finish my school paper about swans!!!!:)

  48. Jodie Gochnauer Says...

    On June 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Please remember than Swans or other animals, who display agressive or “mean” behavior are only trying to protect themselves or their families. If humans were on a planet where larger animals, or others who had weapons were more powerful, humans would try to defend themselves by being “mean” or aggressive also. Animals here on earth live in fear of being eaten or beaten or killed by man.
    And animals in captivity as described byLeianne, the wildlife rescuer, will show different behaviors than animals in the wild. Animals will adapt their behavior to survive. If swans take another mate in captivity or under threat of extinction by man, can we really be surprised? We share this planet with animals, but we have not considered what life would be like without them. We may not even be able to survive without them. I hope we will learn to respect their importance and value, and treat them as we would treat eachother. Every living creature on this planet is valuable and needed. Some of them are considered beautiful, like the swan. But are they not all beautiful in the eyes of the universe?

  49. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On June 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Jodie, yes creation is beautiful and they do have a right to protect themselves. Thanks for the comment.

    Shyenne, I am glad I could help. I do hope you learned something and got an A.

  50. Debbie Schempp Says...

    On June 20, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I Have a pond with two swans, and they had 6 babies. They went up river, and I lost track of them. Now they came back, but minus 5 babies. Does the state step in and take them away, or does mother nature take out the other babies? this is the second season with these two swans, and they had one baby last year. Does anyone have any idea what happen to the other babies? Springfield, mass. I have been taking photos of the progress up to now. Thanks for any answers. :)

  51. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On July 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Debbie, I am not sure what happened to the babies. I hope they are all right.

  52. YG Says...

    On July 25, 2011 at 4:59 am

    “They are not known to attack humans without cause, and actually can remember humans that have been kind to them”

    Come to Ruswarp in England, I know one swan which attacks EVERYBODY, which is a problem as it lives on a river used for rowing and where kids go to feed the ducks. The stupid thing even attacks those who feed it!

    Pity it’s not like its mate which acts just like a normal swan (accepts food and only attacks if provoked).

  53. Anny Says...

    On March 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Swans will hiss because they don’t like dogs, specifically, the barking.

    Trumpet swans are endangered and tagged and can be tracked. I don’t believe that is true of the other species but if you google trumpet swan society, they have the tracking program there.

    There is no real reason to snip their wings. If you spend time with and feed them on a regular basis and are kind to them, they will keep coming back to you, even if they do fly away. That is just my opinion.

  54. penny Says...

    On March 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I have a pair of swans behind my house. once she started incubating the eggs, he went to another pond about 100 feet away . now she just sits on the nest and sleep often. please, is this normal.

  55. Carlene Golding Says...

    On April 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

    We were given a pair of swans by friends for our 3 acre pond. Our friends thought they were male and female. The 2nd year we saw the larger one mount the smaller one and then they built an enormous nest on which the smaller one sat for several hours a day. Ultimately when nothing happened the larger swan died for no apparent reason and we discovered they were both males.

    The same people then gave us what they knew was a female. The existing swan chased her out of the pond and she disappeared for the winter. We assumed she was taken by predators as we live in the country West of Albany NY. But then in the spring she reappeared and was accepted by the formerly subserverant male as his mate and this year (2nd year of the relationship) the pen laid eggs and is now sitting on them. The male gets extremely agressive during this period and attacks anything it deems a danger, including the UPS truck, humans and our border collie who usually succeeds in keeping it away from humans both us and visitors.

    The first 3 eggs were taken by predators so we fenced the nest with only an opening to the pond and she has laid more eggs and we are hoping to see some cygnets in several weeks.

    They are so beautiful but can be very dangerous if approached in the water during mating season.

  56. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On April 29, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Penny, I am sure that animals sometimes behave out of ordinary also. I hope your cygnets will be fine.

    Carlene, thank you for sharing such a fascinating story. I am so glad you were able to help your swans and hope you get the babies you are looking forward to.

  57. mike delossantos Says...

    On November 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    A man ii know marcus martin of houston texas ( decorator extrordiare/holiday decor too. Expert in caligraphy and animal lover. His two swaans made me a fan. One day I hope to buy a manufactured home on a vacant property just to be able to dig a pond for two swans that can be seen from living room bay windows. Got to have a fountain in the middle of course. Wwatching swans is so relaxing and the beauty od god and his creations can easily be seen. I have read that in some cases they can live oer 70years and onece a swan lived oer 100years. I know they are expensive 700$ I think, but talk about a great investment. Another beautiful swan is the rene lalique pair of crystal swans. They are huge and u must get the matching mirror with wave/ripples in the mirror that the swans sit apon. If you love swans own them or admire them check out the lalique crystal swan pair on matching mirror. Mike delossantos houston tx 281-905-4436.

  58. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On November 24, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Thanks for your visit, Mike.

  59. Raj the Tora Says...

    On January 25, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Wonderful information about these truly magnificent creatures!

  60. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On January 26, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Raj, they are magnificent, aren’t they?

  61. I Says...

    On February 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Swans are really tasty

  62. Jake M. Says...

    On March 9, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Judy, I am an artist and would love to include some of your magnificent photos in one or two of my paintings with your permission. I live in Texas and haven\\\’t seen any swans. Perhaps \\\”I Says…\\\” got hungry again. Next time try a rattlesnake. They are very dangerous to animals and humans and I hear the skins are valuable and they too are \\\”tasty\\\” and not beautiful unless made into a hat band or boots!

  63. Judy Sheldon Says...

    On March 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Jake, I have written about snakes.

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