Swan song in the Beach

Can you guess what creature is elegant, has an elongated neck, long white feathers, and is very beautiful?  Why swans, of course. There are two species of swans in the Beach area.

Mute Swans
Down at the Leslie Street Spit and Ashbridges Bay you will find a pair of Mute Swans.  Watching them reminds me of my first time on a ride at an amusement park.  My dad and I sat in the swan ride and went around and around the pond. I was super excited and bursting with pride as the swan had the wings up high and looked majestic.

The Mute Swan is not a native species. It was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Some of the swans escaped and then started to breed in the wild. We now have many mute swans. The Mute Swan will mate for life, but will remate should the partner die.

How do you tell the difference between male and female?  The black knob at the base of the male swan’s bill swells becoming larger during breeding season.  Otherwise males and females look the same the rest of the year.

The Mute Swan produces a variety of sounds including a snorting ‘heorrr’,  aggressive hissing and its wings make singing noise in flight.

A newborn swan is called a cygnet. Cygnets come in two colour morphs – gray and white. My grandson Cole was born in June four years ago, and I saw my first cygnet in the pond by his house.  Whenever I see cygnet, it always brings a smile to my eyes, as it reminds me of holding a beautiful newborn baby.

Trumpeter Swans
Down at Bluffers Park you may see a pair of Trumpeter Swans with four cygnets.  The Trumpeter Swan is often seen with wing tags and bands on its legs as it was near extinction in early 20th century. They were hunted for their feathers to make quill pens.  Today they are seen in good numbers.

Wild Trumpeter Swans  are known to live between 24 to 32 years.  They also mate for life, but may not find a new mate if their mate dies.  The Trumpeter Swan makes a hollow, nasal honking sounds and their wings make a raspy noise while in flight.

So, how to do you tell the difference between Mute and Trumpeter Swans. The Mute Swan has an orange bill and black face. The Trumpeter has a black bill and face.

I love sitting at Ashbridges Bay and watching the swans fly in the distance.  Take the time to watch them but please do not feed them.  Should you see one injured, or with fishing line on their body or legs, please call Toronto Wildlife Centre at 416-631-0662.  Please leave them a detailed message on where the swan is and what the injury is.

If you have a story to tell please email me (abrokelman@gmail.com).

A special thank you to Walter Fisher who submitted and wrote  the article on the Raptor Watch last month. Due to an editing error his name was not included.

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