|Conservation status||North American populations are still increasing. These huge birds can pose a nuisance, consuming great amounts of aquatic vegetation and competing with native waterfowl. By the early 1990s some biologists suggested control of the population in some areas, especially Chesapeake Bay region and southern New England, but general public opinion was still on the side of the swans.|
|Family||Ducks and Geese|
|Habitat||Ponds, both fresh and salt; coastal lagoons, salt bays. In North America found in wide variety of wetland areas including all types of marshes, lakes, park ponds; often in close association with humans, but also in some remote wild areas.|
Feeds by dabbling at water's surface, dipping head and neck below surface, and upending with tail up and head extending straight down; also grazes on land. Readily adapts to artificial feeding by humans.
5-7, up to 10, rarely 11. Very pale green, becoming nest-stained. Incubation period about 36 days. Female does almost all incubating; male will sit on nest while female is off foraging. Young: both adults tend young; small young often carried on parents' backs. Young fledge in 4-5 months, usually remain with parents through first winter.
both adults tend young; small young often carried on parents' backs. Young fledge in 4-5 months, usually remain with parents through first winter.
Mostly plant material. Feeds on seeds, stems, leaves, and roots of aquatic plants, including pondweeds, eelgrass, algae. Also grazes on grasses, feeds on waste grain. Sometimes eats insects, snails, worms, tadpoles, small fish.
Pairs usually form at age of 2 years, first nesting usually at 3-4 years. Pairs in courtship face each other and turn heads from side to side in unison. In threat display to protect nesting area, wings arched over back, head laid far back with neck feathers fluffed out, while swan swims forward jerkily. Nest site on shoreline, small island, or mound built up in shallows. Nest (built by female, although male helps gather material) is mound of plant material, usually 5-6' in diameter, with shallow depression on top.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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North American birds seem not to migrate farther than necessary. Those in northeast move southward or to coastal waters when breeding lakes freeze; more southerly birds may be sedentary. On native range in Eurasia, may migrate long distances.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent, but utters hissing and barking notes. A loud trumpeting call is rarely heard; wings make loud whirring sound in flight.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Mute Swan
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Mute Swan
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.