Swans are one of the largest birds that fly. They are a member of the waterfowl family Anatidae, and their closest relatives are geese and ducks. There are 6 species of swan. There is a 7th species called the coscoroba swan, but it is not considered a true swan and is in a separate genus of its own.
An adult male swan is called a cob, an adult female is a pen, and young swans are called cygnets. A group of swans is called a bevy, and if they are in flight, they are called a wedge.
Most swans mate for life, but they sometimes separate or “divorce” after nesting failure. After divorce or the death of a mate, they will find another. Swans may find their mates and bond as young as 20 months old, even though they aren’t sexually mature until 4 to 7 years old.
A swan nest can be over 3 feet across and is on the ground near water. The male also helps build the nest and incubate the eggs. They have 3 to 8 eggs in a clutch.
Swans are mainly herbivores. They eat aquatic plants, roots, and stems, but may occasionally eat insects, amphibians, small fish, or snails. They do not dive underwater for their food, but they do what is called dabbling. This is when they put their head underwater to reach plants and their butt stays above water sticking straight up.
Swans have serrated edges on their beak that look like teeth. They aren’t teeth like we have as they don’t have enamel, and they are made out of the same stuff as their beak. The scientific name for them is tomia. They help swans grab onto their food and also act as a sieve to drain water from their food before they swallow.
Some species of swan migrate and they form a V shape and fly at a great height. They are the fastest waterfowl in the air and on water.
The largest species of swan are the mute swan, trumpeter swan, and whooper swan. Their wingspan can be over 10 feet. Males are usually a little bigger than females.
Here are the different species of swan:
The mute swan (Cygnus olor) is native to Eurasia. They are called mute because they are less vocal than other species. They were brought to the United States and other places to be added to parks and estates and then established wild populations.
Black swans (Cygnus atratus) are native to Australia and have been introduced to New Zealand.
Black-necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) are native to South America.
Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus) can be found in Iceland and subarctic Europe and Asia for breeding season and migrate to temperate Europe and Asia for the winter.
Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) are native to North America.
Tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) breed in tundra areas of the Arctic and subarctic and migrate south for the winter. There are two subspecies of tundra swans: Bewick’s swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii) and whistling swan (Cygnus columbianus columbianus). Bewick’s can be found during breeding season in Siberia and Russia and migrate south. Whistling swans can be found in Alaska and Canada during breeding season and migrate to warmer areas of the Untied States and Mexico for the winter.