Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mute Swans

Over the past five years, there have been a pair of Mute Swans that arrive during fall and winter over at a small local lake.  Last year, only one swan showed.  Today when I stopped by my parents, to my surprise, there were four swans.

I walked down to the edge of the lake and of course they came up looking for a handout.  These are indeed "wild" swans but are very habituated to humans.  I can only assume that the two immature swans are their offspring.  The two immature swans have the pale bill and do not yet have the black knob at the top of the bill.

Mute Swans are not native to North America.  They were brought to this country from Europe in the late 1800's to "decorate" ponds on genteel estates.  Current estimates are 22,000+.  Their somewhat aggressive behavior towards native species can cause issues with other waterfowl.  The Chesapeake Bay area in Virginia has seen significant impact from these swans.  Their high reproductive rate and  long life span has potential for trouble.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for DC ruled in December 2001 that Mute swans were officially recognized as Federally protected in the U.S..  Mute Swans, a  member of the waterbird family Anatidae, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

"The MBTA provides strong measures for the protection and conservation of migratory birds, while at the same time providing opportunities for people to use the migratory bird resource for sport, recreation, and scientific endeavors. The MBTA also provides considerable flexibility for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–the primary Federal agency responsible for migratory bird management–to implement actions to address situations in which birds may come into conflict with human interests, as in the case of mute swans."  Source:  Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and Virginia DENR

While in many areas they cause issues because of their diet of submerged aquatic vegetation, in this particular lake where vegetation has dramatically increased to almost out of control over the past several years, the Swans actually help in controlling that growth.  I guess there is a balance in nature for everything.

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