"The Ugly Duckling"

Mute Swan

        mute swanWhat’s beautiful, huge, belligerent, and found in southern Utah where there’s water? You guessed right, if you said a Mute Swan. There is nothing so beautiful as a huge white Mute Swan swimming on a pond. There is no other flying bird as heavy as the Mute Swan. One Polish male Mute Swan weighed in at 51 lb. Belligerent? There are reports of Mute Swan’s aggressively going after animals as large as a Fox, after people who enter their territory in golf carts, after small water crafts like canoes, and after other large birds who look like possible threats.

        This domesticated Mute Swan was introduced from Europe to America in the 1800's. They are a favorite water attraction for golf courses and manmade impoundments here, and around the world. In some areas Mute Swans are considered a ‘nuisance’ because in large numbers they can strip a pond, river, or farmland of its vegetation, upsetting the balance of life and a farmer’s harvest. Birds in our area have become free-roaming and move from pond to pond unless their wing feathers used for flying are clipped. Watching a pair of white Mute Swans, traveling between ponds, flying through the blue sky with their huge wings, is an awesome sight.

        The Mute Swan is recognized by the pronounced knob atop the orange bill. The legs of the Mute Swan are set back on the body to allow them to walk well on land and feed on grasses. Swans are called dabbling birds because of the way they feed. Swans will upend their bodies and head deep in the water to reach the lush plant growth beneath the surface. The name ‘mute’ comes from it being less vocal than other swan species. This is the Swan referred to in the ‘swan song’ legend that it is silent until the last moment of life when it then sings one last beautiful song before dying. This is the Swan that Hans Christian Andersen used for his story of the ‘Ugly Duckling’. I hope you will look for, and enjoy the beautiful Mute Swans in our area.

        Judy Warren is the artist this week, painting the Mute Swan with watercolors. If you have questions about birds, the upcoming monthly presentation of the Red Cliffs Audubon or the next Field Trip, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.


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