Ask the Swan Specialist

Cygnets and Parents, Pinioning
By:The Regal Swan
Date: 29 May 2007
In Response To: Leaving Cygnets With Parent Swans (Connie erwig)

Hi Connie:

Good questions!

Although the mother swan may have some uropygial gland (preen) oil on her feathers, this is not the reason that she carries her young. Just like some ducks and geese, this is nature's way of protecting the young from predators and fatigue. Black-necked swans carry their young on their backs much more often than other species of swans. The number of cygnets will also be a determiing factor. If there are a large number of cygnets fighting to get on mom's back and they are constantly crawling up and down, mom won't allow anyone to ride! Although you might see all the cygnets at one time or another riding, another determining point is the age of the cygnet. If you notice the youngests may be just a little smaller and may grow fatigued quicker than some of its older siblings.

Cygnets are not guaranteed to always survive just like any other young species. 12-14 weeks of life are critical for the cygnets. Even with the best of care, they still may perish. It is much better to let the swan parents watch over the cygnets and raise them until 4-5 months of age. Taking cygnets away from the parents can be distressful on the parents and the cygnets (although they usually get over it in about a day or two). Imprinting is THE major problem. If the parents are not allowed to parent, humans become the parents and the cygnets start imprinting on humans. This can cause some major issues as the swans develop and eventually become adult swans. If the cygnets need to be protected from predators, etc., it is best to take the parents and the cygnets and raise them together.

In Arizona, permits must be obtained to possess the indigenous (native) Trumpeter Swan (black beak) or Tundra Swan (black beak with yellow lore around the eye). Other non-indigenous (non-native) species of swans can be maintained in a captive setting but must not be allowed to start feral populations in the wild.

What species of swans do you have on the golf course? This will also determine if you can lawfully remove them from their parents.

Secondly, are all of the swans pinioned? If not, the golf course is legally responsible for their possible introduction into the wild. All non-native cygnets should be pinioned within 1-3 weeks of age. Cygnets should be separated based upon families (DO NOT INTERMIX FAMILIES) . Swan parents will often kill or try to kill cygnets that are not their own. If you are going to transport the cygnets to a veterinarian for pinioning, the cygnets from each famly should be separated and clearly marked as to which parents they originated. Cygnets should be returned to their parents within a reasonable time frame (within 2-3 hours) or the parents may not accept them.

If the swans on the golf course are Trumpeters or Tundra swans, you cannot have this procedure done. We hope that this information is of benefit.
The Regal Swan

Messages In This Thread

Leaving Cygnets With Parent Swans -- Connie erwig -- 28 May 2007
Cygnets and Parents, Pinioning -- The Regal Swan -- 29 May 2007