Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Swan song

Swans can be not nice. I was away for a night over the weekend and during this time the swan family returned and attacked the remaining swanling. A young family saw the attack and told me about it a day later. Led by the mother swan, the swans went for the neck and legs of the swanling. They cornered it in the drainpipe, beneath the viewing platform, and would not let it out. The family told me that after the swan family left, the swanling hid in the reeds and cried. 

The following morning there was no sign of the swanling for quite a while but it came out of the reeds eventually. At that hour it is usually in the middle of the pond.

Sometimes if I sit quietly at the edge of the pond the swanling will swim very close then stay close grazing on algae or grass. I know swans everywhere approach people, because people feed them and that they become pests in picnic areas, but for now this swanling and I enjoy occasional quiet moments together.


It's hard to say what made the swans turn on this one. Maybe it's the runt and they don't like it. Maybe things went weird after the loss of the dominant male. Maybe this is just what swans do. I have no expertise here so feel free to leave a comment.

The other swans can't be too far away for them to fly in like this. All family members were accounted for, so they're surviving the wild world. A few days before the attack I heard two of the swanlings were back at the pond but I didn't see them. About a week earlier I did see one of them back. I was happy to see it and took it as a sign the others were safe. Mostly the visiting swanling ignored the live-in, with a bit of hissing when they got too close.

The mystery of what happened to the father swan seems less mysterious now that I have spoken with several people who pass the pond frequently. A couple of people had seen the father swan walking with a bad limp and I also heard about a dog owner setting his dog on the swans. A woman tried to intervene but the dog owner was abusive and the woman left upset. 

The father swan was always the one to put himself between the young ones and any danger. In our neck of the woods, one big danger is dogs. Although there is a sculpture at the pond celebrating the rare Regent Honeyeater, the pond adjoins an off-leash park for dogs and I guess the council classifies the wetlands as mixed purpose/multi use. Dogs swim in the pond a lot, out into the middle and the odd one goes crashing through the reeds. I can only assume the father swan was bitten by a dog. Perhaps the wound became infected or else he bled to death. In any case, his body was floating in the pond for a few days. I wrote about that here


  1. Sad ending.
    But life goes on, it seems. Hope so.

  2. The little cygnet/swanling seems ok now, down but not out.


  3. A pond with a group of swans seems such a calm, serene place- but I guess that's the gossamer thin veneer. So much violence and intrigue underneath. Good to hear that your swanling is doing ok.

  4. Ta. We're not exactly Storm Boy and Mr Percival but I like the critter.