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!
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.