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Swans at Berwick

- Mute Swans -- Other Swans
Mute Swan

MUTE SWAN: The Mute Swan, which is a very large all-white Eurasian "pond" swan with a musical wing beat, is found in huge herds on the Tweed estuary at Berwick. I counted 320 of these magnificent birds from the Town Walls opposite Wellington Terrace one day last summer without moving from that spot. These mighty white birds can be seen at all times of the year from the Town Walls and the Quayside in Berwick. They also spend a lot of time amongst the shipping in Tweed-Dock at Tweedmouth on the south side of the river.

The herd of Mute Swans on the Tweed lives there all year, but is augmented throughout the summer months by Mutes from all over Scotland and the North of England as they spend the Summer in Berwick while they moult. It would appear that the Tweed Estuary has sufficient food to support them while they are unable to fly. In the past few years the herd has also been joined from time to time by a few Black Swans.

The swans can be quite tame, and eat bread right out of a persons' hands. However it should be stressed that these are very powerful birds, and may attack humans and pets, especially at nesting times.

DESCRIPTION: Mute Swans BeakThe male and female are outwardly alike but the males are larger. You will notice the size difference when the birds are out of the water. The Mute Swan is 56-62 inches long; wingspan to 8-9 feet. They are distinguished from our other "Migrant" swans, the Whooper and Bewicks swans which have yellow and black bills by their orange-colored bill, black at the base, with a prominent black knob on their forehead. When swimming, the Mute Swan holds its neck in a graceful "S" curve with its bill pointing downward. The Whooper Swans usually carry their bill level with their neck erect. The male frequently arches his secondary wing feathers over his back in an aggressive display posture.

The Mute Swan is usually silent but hisses and sometimes utters puppy-like barking notes or loud high-pitched purring sounds. Their wingbeats make musical throbbing or humming sounds which can be heard from a long way off.

NESTING: The nesting pair usually maintains a large territory on a small lake or pond or along the banks of slow moving rivers such as the Tweed, only rarely nesting together in a colony. They vigorously defend their nests and young from intruders. Their nest is a large pile of aquatic plants, sticks, reeds,and roots gathered by the pair of swans on an island in pond or on its banks and lined with down and feathers.

EGGS: March 30-June l2th; average of 4-6 gray or blue-green. Incubation is usually by female alone, Protected by male, 35-38 days, usually 35. Young first fly l00-l20 days after hatching. Swan with CygnetChicks light gray above, remain l day in nest. Male often takes first-hatched cygnet to water while female continues to incubate rest of eggs; chicks will ride on backs of parents or under their wings.
AGE: Have lived 30-40 years in captivity. One reported to have lived to 70 years. Greatest ages for wild mute swans were three banded in Switzerland that were l8 and l9 years old when recovered.

FLIGHT SPEED: 50-55 m.p.h.

WEIGHT: up to 50 pounds

RANGE: Nests over much of the British Isles, north to central Europe and North to central Asia; winters south to Northern Africa, Near East, Northwest India and Korea. In the U.S. mute swans (which are introduced escapees but now fairly widespread in the wild) wander along the Atlantic coast from eastern Massachusettes south to central New Jersey. In Australia they are found in parts of Western Australia and Tasmania where they were introduced, but as in the USA have escaped into the wild.