Identification of Mute Swan

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Swans and Geese | Mute Swan Cygnus olor |  Identification of Mute Swan

Mute Swan Cygnus olor

The mute swan (Cygnus olor) is a species of swan, and thus a member of the waterfowl family Anatidae. It is native to much of Europe and Asia, and (as a rare winter visitor) the far north of Africa. It is also an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa. The name 'mute' derives from it being less vocal than other swan species. Measuring 125 to 170 cm (49 to 67 in) in length, this large swan is wholly white in plumage with an orange bill bordered with black. It is recognisable by its pronounced knob atop the bill.
The mute swan was first formally described by the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin as Anas olor in 1789, and was transferred by Johann Matthäus Bechstein to the new genus Cygnus in 1803. It is the type species of the genus Cygnus.Both cygnus and olor mean "swan" in Latin; cygnus is related to the Greek kyknos.

Despite its Eurasian origin, its closest relatives are the black swan of Australia and the black-necked swan of South America, not the other Northern Hemisphere swans. The species is monotypic with no living subspecies.

Adults of this large swan typically range from 140 to 160 cm (55 to 63 in) long, although can range in extreme cases from 125 to 170 cm (49 to 67 in), with a 200 to 240 cm (79 to 94 in) wingspan. Males are larger than females and have a larger knob on their bill. On average, this is the second largest waterfowl species after the trumpeter swan, although male mute swans can easily match or even exceed a male trumpeter in mass. Among standard measurements of the mute swan, the wing chord measures 53–62.3 cm (20.9–24.5 in), the tarsus is 10–11.8 cm (3.9–4.6 in) and the bill is 6.9–9 cm (2.7–3.5 in).

The mute swan is one of the heaviest flying birds. In several studies from Great Britain, males (known as cobs) were found to average from about 10.6 to 11.87 kg (23.4 to 26.2 lb), with a weight range of 9.2–14.3 kg (20–32 lb) while the slightly smaller females (known as pens) averaged about 8.5 to 9.67 kg (18.7 to 21.3 lb), with a weight range of 7.6–10.6 kg (17–23 lb). While the top normal weight for a big cob is roughly 15 kg (33 lb), one unusually big Polish cob weighed almost 23 kg (51 lb) and this counts as the largest weight ever verified for a flying bird, although it has been questioned whether this heavyweight could still take flight.

Young birds, called cygnets, are not the bright white of mature adults, and their bill is dull greyish-black, not orange, for the first year. The down may range from pure white to grey to buff, with grey/buff the most common. The white cygnets have a leucistic gene. All mute swans are white at maturity, though the feathers (particularly on the head and neck) are often stained orange-brown by iron and tannins in the water.

The morph immutabilis ("Polish swan") has pinkish (not dark grey) legs and dull white cygnets; as with white domestic geese, it is only found in populations with a history of domestication.

The Mute SwanThe Mute Swan
Written by two of the leading authorities on the Mute Swan, this monograph examines all aspects of the bird's life, including its history, and the laws and customs associated with swan ownership, its life-history and populations, and the threats to its survival.
Ducks, Geese and Swans Anseriformes

Ducks, Geese and Swans Anseriformes

The most authoritative and up-to-date survey avialable of this massive and well-known family of birds; a welcome addition to the Bird Families of the World series that is set to become a classic of ornithology
Highly illustrated, with specially commissioned colour plates by Mark Hulme, plus numerous maps, halftones, and line figures
Includes much new and previously unpublished data, compiled by a panel of experts from around the globe

Wildfowl and screamers belong to a highly diverse family of birds, confined to watery habitats. They are amongst the most attractive of birds and are very well-known to man, who has domesticated them, used their feathers for warm clothing and ornamentation, admired their flight, courtship and migration, caught them for food, maintained them in captivity for pleasure, and written about their doings in delightful children's stories, from Mother Goose to Jemima Puddleduck and Donald Duck. They occur throughout the world except Antarctica. Some are faithful to the same partner for life, others for only the few minutes of copulation. In some species, male and female make devoted parents, and yet there is one within the group whose female lays her eggs in the nests of others and never incubates. Diving as a method of obtaining food has evolved many times within the family. Most nest in the open but others in the tree-hole nests of woodpeckers and some in the ground burrows of rabbits or aardvarks. They may be highly social or solitary, defending a large territory.

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The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Swans and Geese | Mute Swan Cygnus olor |  Identification of Mute Swan

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