British wildlife recordings
Cygnus olor : Mute Swan - Anatidae
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Axmouth, Devon: OS Grid Reference(325500,91500)
Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
The call of the mute swan, recorded at Axmouth, Devon. The mute swan is one of our most familiar and best loved birds. The striking orange bill and characteristic curved angle of the neck distinguishes the mute from the other two species of swan (Berwick and Whooper) which visit Britain in the winter. Unlike these winter visitors, the mute is a resident of Britain where it is very widespread, breeding on lakes, village ponds, and slow-flowing rivers and canals. The long neck of the swan enables it to reach up to a metre below the surface where it feeds on aquatic plants and vegetation. Birds usually pair for life and apart from a few traditional colonies, they are fiercely territorial, defending their patch with elaborate threat displays. Although the mute swan (as its name suggests) does not have a distinctive call it does make a range of loud snorting or hissing sounds when angry or disturbed. In flight, the large and powerful wings of the mute swan make a rhythmic whistling 'wou wou' sound. The mute swan particularly suffered from lead poisoning due to discarded fishing weights and shotgun cartridges, although recent bans and better protection have effected an increase in numbers. Currently the population stands at over 40,000 individuals in Britain and Ireland.