Monday, 30 March 2009


Swans sailing around a lake are, surely, one of Britain's most beautiful sights. Most children are fascinated by the idea that a swan can break your leg with a swipe from it's wings. This is probably not true but they could do you some damage nonetheless.
The Mute Swan Cygnus olor, is one of the world's heaviest flying birds. Male birds (known as cobs), average about 27lbs in weight but a particularly large one from Poland weighed nearly 50lbs!
Surprisingly, Mute Swans are more closely related to the Black Swan of Australia and the Black-Necked Swan of South America than the white swans found in the northern hemisphere.
Britain has about 22,000 individual swans including around 5,300 breeding pairs. Today, the British Monarch retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century. The Mute Swans in the moat at the Bishops Palace at Wells Cathedral in Wells, England have for centuries been trained to ring bells via strings attached to them to beg for food. Two swans are still able to ring for lunch!
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