Growing up into a graceful swan
THERE once was an ugly duckling, with feathers all stubby and brown.But those stubby brown feathers are nothing to worry about and animal welfare experts are today reminding the public not to panic if they see a swan with discoloured feathers-it's normal.
THERE once was an ugly duckling, with feathers all stubby and brown.
But those stubby brown feathers are nothing to worry about and animal welfare experts are today reminding the public not to panic if they see a swan with discoloured feathers-it's normal.
Although areas of dark plumage may give the impression that a swan has paddled straight into a dangerous oil slick the feathers are in fact just part of growing up.
Marc Niepold, the Ipswich area inspector for the Royal Society for the protection of animals (RSPCA), said it is common for the public to mistake dark plumage for something more sinister.
He said: "It is the old story of the ugly duckling. When they are juvenile swans (cygnets) they have grey and brown feathers, as they mature over the winter they have a new growth of white feathers."
The white feathers contrast with the grey and brown feathers left.
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Mr Niepold said the cygnets lose the remainder of their darker plumage as the winter progresses.
He said: "It depends on how old they are, if they are from a late brood they can keep their plumage right through winter."
At this time of year cygnets will be starting to learn to fly.
Mr Niepold said: "Normally by the spring or summer it has gone. By that time their parents kick them out and they have developed mature feathers."
Mr Niepold said he had recently investigated a report of an oiled swan at The Strand in Wherstead.
He said: "There is a cygnet here which has a dark area of feathers. Every year we have calls from people who think they have seen an oiled swan, it happens quite often.
"But I would rather people called than didn't as it is always better to check out in case a swan has come in contact with oil."
Anyone who has any concerns about animal welfare should contact the RSPCA on 0870 5555999.
N A male swan is a cob, a female is a pen, and the young are called cygnets.
N Swans are the largest of the aquatic birds, closely related to the Goose.
N Swans have as many as 25,000 feathers.
N They are long-lived birds, and can live up to twenty years in the wild, and even fifty years in captivity.
N Long-necked and web-footed, swans are often thought of as ornamental birds that float serenely on ponds in zoos and botanical gardens.
N There are seven species of swan-Whooper, Trumpeter, Tundra, Mute, Black-necked, Black and Coscoroba.
N The most commonly seen member of the family is the Mute Swan, an enormous, all-white bird with the pinkish bill that ends in a black knob.
N The curving neck of the Mute Swan has the most neck vertebrae (23) of any bird.
N Swans generally mate for life. They remain together throughout the year and keep their young with them until they nest again.
N If one of a pair dies, the survivor usually takes a new mate and remains devoted.