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Mute Swans

Mute Swan TakeoffThis is a mute swan taking off at dawn.

Mute swans are Britian's biggest bird at about 5 foot (1.5m). The female is called a Pen, and male a Cob, and young are Cygnets.

Though they fly well, takeoff requires a stretch of water many tens of metres in length or over which they 'run' and flap to gain speed. We never expect to see any on our ponds which are not only less than 20 metres long, but have islands in the way. Swans rarely land where there is an insufficient runway for take-off - if you find one away from water it will probably have walked there from stream.

Pen and CygnetsWe see swans flying overhead on occasions (actually you hear the lovely whistle of their wings first), but they are unpredictable, unlike Geese which at certain times of the year you can almost set your watch to!

There seems to be a widely held view that swans are vicious and dangerous to humans, but in 30 years of being around them we have never been attacked or seen anybody else attacked by them. If you distress them they supply plenty of warning hisses and wing flaps that only an idiot would ignore. If you get between rival cobs (males) a sudden rush may make you jump, but they have no interest in attacking humans that are not interfering with them.
Geese are much more likely to produce unprovoked attacks, and we wonder whether people think that swans will behave in a similar manner.

Pen and Cob NeckingThe classic 'Heart' shape pose that Mute Swans adopt during displays of affection.