Invasive Bullies

For the longest time, my perception of Mute Swans was limited to the beautiful, ornamental birds of urban ponds, drifting about peacefully and casting mirror-like images for the viewing pleasure of visitors..Native to Euurasia, they were introduced into the U.S. in the late 19th century for this very reason.


As is the case with many introduced species, the Mute Swan experiment was too successful. Expanding populations of wild, free-ranging birds now dominate some wetland habitats and threaten the natural balance of those ecosystems.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently proposed revisions to its 20-year-old Mute Swan management plan that would impose stricter control measures, to the point of eliminating free-ranging Mute Swans altogether over the next decade.

On April 2, when most of our surface waters were still frozen, I had an opportunity to observe the nasty side of a Mute Swan, behavior that supports the concern of conservationists and the labels of “invasive” and  “prohibited” species.

This “wild”, free-ranging swan had laid claim to about 20 or 30 meters of open water on a small lake. About a dozen Canada Geese were nearby, on the ice, trying repeatedly to access the open water. Geese are powerful birds and can be very aggressive, but they were no match for the bully!


Swan patrolling open water


Swan confronting some approaching geese


Swan showing an intimidating, confrontational posture


Swan patrolling again, now concerned about geese approaching from another direction




Not satisfied with the results of patrolling and posturing, the swan resorted to its last, and most aggressive tactic – physical confrontation

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.



11 thoughts on “Invasive Bullies

  1. Well captured, Nick. I’ve observed their juggernaut-lke defence on water, but these extraordinary scenes really capture a stature of menacing postures. That last shot is a classic. Here the introduced mallards are creating havoc; man creates the issues and when the introduced species are culled the ‘greenies’ cry fowl.

    • Appreciate the comments Liz. I can certainly understand how introduced mallards could be a problem; is there a more adaptable and human-tolerant waterfowl species?! Regarding the hand of man, we think alike.

    • Thanks Donna. That was an unexpected turn of events. Having just read a NYSDEC article on the subject a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be an interesting and timely subject.

  2. Great photos, Nock! The swans on the small lake where I lived very effectively prevented the Canada Geese from ever nesting along the shores. For some reason, the swans didn’t chase off any of the ducks, nor herons, just the geese. It was remarkable to watch a swan repeatedly keep a male goose from getting near his mate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s