In May we rescued an endangered stranded duckling and more recently we have been asked to look after a malnourished young swan. It seems that we are quickly becoming amateur ornithologists making sure that we look after the river bank and its feathered inhabitants.
A lady from Bishop’s Wood Swan Rescue came into the office and asked Sarah Jones, a member of the marketing team, if we would feed a young swan who’d been spotted regularly near to the office, and seemed very small for its age. We’re not sure how old ‘John the Swan’ is or what sex he is for that matter, but after conducting a Postcode Anywhere email Vox Pop, we have decided to name him ‘John the Swan’.
The important thing for us is that we must ensure that ‘John the Swan’ receives his specially-prepared swan food that will supplement his natural diet of plant food, which is often in short supply. When the river level is low it is difficult for swans to reach it on the river bank and when we have flood conditions, such as the ones we experienced earlier in the year, the aggressive current washes away the vegetation.
Cygnets to swans and teenage angst
We’ve been at our Diglis premises for nearly two years now and it’s amazing how we keep learning about our riverside environment. For example, we know that our adopted swan is a teenager as its brown feathers will gradually turn white as it matures. Better-fed swans go white first and then in the summer months they moult.
Young swans spend three or four years growing up. Gradually their beaks turn orange and they learn how to get on with each other and more importantly for the sake of survival how to defend themselves and their future families.
Interestingly young swans start courting long before they actually fly off to find their own place to live. They show their interest in the opposite sex by copying each other’s movements. Courtship also involves dipping their heads into the water. They do seem to be romantic birds as they are portrayed in various fictional guises but it seems to be true as they are monogamous, although when a swan loses its mate it looks for a new one fairly quickly which seems a little contradictory.
Threats to Swans
Apparently swans suffer from a range of other health issues apart from the malnutrition problem that ‘John the Swan’ is currently suffering from and of course they, like any other species, can be vulnerable. They can be killed or wounded by dogs or foxes and they can fly into power lines or buildings even. Rubbish, fishing lines and fishing hooks and weights can be extremely hazardous. Sewage in flood water is also potentially harmful to swan well-being. Just like humans they sometimes have seasonal health problems when bacteria or viruses increase and pervade their environment.
Swans are also susceptible to a fungal lung disease called Aspergillosis. There is also a bacterial infection which causes pink feathers which can harm them too.
If you are interested in feeding swans you’ll be interested to know that they like lettuce, watercress and fresh unsprayed grass cuttings too. If you are giving them bread it must never be mouldy which goes for anything you feed them on in fact. You may also be interested to know that you can buy the specially-prepared swan food at Diglis Marina corner shop and Cafe Afloat.
We are hoping that ‘John the Swan’ will put on the requisite weight and thrive with the help of our dedicated swan welfare team. Despite their reputation for being proud and even haughty creatures swans, in fact, are quite sociable birds. If you have a spare five minutes go and say hello to Mr and Mrs Swan, John’s parents. I’m sure the whole family will appreciate the company.