For centuries, mute swans were known as 'birds royal' because only the king or a few specially favoured subjects could keep them. They were often served up, roasted, at banquets - a roast swan must have required a very large plate!



Mute swans which live in Britain, Ireland and France are mainly resident and usually do not travel very far. Some birds leave their breeding territories and gather together in small winter flocks on nearby lakes and estuaries. Mute swans in some parts of Germany and Scandinavia migrate from their inland breeding lakes to spend the winter along the Baltic coasts, where the weather is less severe. The distance the swans have to fly depends on how cold the winter is. In milder winters, the birds may stay on their breeding lakes, the movement of their paddling feet preventing the water from freezing over.

The male mute swan, known as the cob, fiercely defends the territory that he and his mate, the pen, share . If an intruder, such as another male swan, dares to invade his terrritory he uses a threat posture, raising his wings and back feathers, while lowering his head and moving powerfully through the water. This display usually frightens away the intruder.

Read More: Food and feeding

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