Cygnus olor (mute swan)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Cygnus olor (Gmelin, 1789)
Preferred Common Name
- mute swan
Other Scientific Names
- Anas olor Gmelin
International Common Names
- English: swan, mute
- French: cygne tuburculé
- Russian: lebed-shipun
Local Common Names
- Turkey: fysyldayan gu gushu
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Cygnus olor (mute swan) is a large swan species that can utilise a variety of aquatic habitats. They consume submerged aquatic vegetation to the point of overgrazing, which in turn reduces the carrying capacity of natural habitats for native waterfowl. They will occasionally overgraze to such an extent that certain vegetation is eliminated from the ecosystem. Cygnus olor is also very territorial and will drive off native waterfowl species and has been known to attack and kill native species while defending territory. Mute swans have also been known to attack and injure humans and can be especially dangerous to small children.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Anseriformes
- Family: Anatidae
- Genus: Cygnus
- Species: Cygnus olor
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Asia and Europe (Ivory, 2002; and Watola et al. 2003).
Known introduced range: North America (Bergman et al. 2004).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Korea, DPR||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Jersey||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New York||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-North Carolina||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Czech Republic||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|Russian Federation||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-England and Wales||Present||Native||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Northern Ireland||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
HabitatTop of page
C. olor is found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including ponds and lagoons, fresh to salt water marshes, well-sheltered bays and lakes. In the warmer months, mute swans spend most of their time in shallow water. As shallow water freezes, the birds move to deeper water, but will utilise deeper water throughout the year (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2002; and Ivory, 2002).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Lakes||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rivers / streams||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Estuaries||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is the preferred diet of Cygnus olor (mute swan), though they also eat grain crops. They consume daily at least 3-4kg (wet weight) of submerged aquatic plants, including leaves, stems, roots, stolons and rhizomes, uproot additional vegetation that is not eaten, and use emergent vegetation for nest building. They have been observed pulling plants up by the roots or rhizomes or paddling vigorously to dislodge whole plants to consume or to make available for cygnets (Chesapeake Bay Program, 2002; and Petrie and Francis, 2003).
Adult Cygnus olor (mute swans) do not necessarily pair for life, but established pairs are more successful breeders than non-established pairs. Mute swans rarely nest in colonies. Nest sites are selected and breeding begins in March or early April. Nests will be built or a previously constructed mound, such as a muskrat house will be used. Nests are large, composed of aquatic vegetation and lined with feathers and down. It is built above the water level in a swampy place near a pond or lake. Clutch sizes of 5 to 12 can occur, but 5 to 7 is most common. Eggs are pale grey to pale blue-green. Incubation lasts 36 to 38 days. Incubation is shared between the male and female, but the female spends the majority of time sitting and the male typically stands guard (Ivory, 2002).
Cygnus olor (mute swan) chicks are brownish grey (gradually turning white within the next 12 months) and only remain in the nest for one day. They are able to fly in about 60 days. Chicks can ride on the backs of their parents or under their wings. By the following breeding season the parents drive the young away. Adolescents then join flocks of other non-breeding swans and during this time molt their feathers, becoming flightless for a short period of time. In the next two years, they begin to bond with a mate and begin to look for suitable breeding territory. Swans do not begin to breed until around year three (Ivory, 2002).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Acclimatisation societies:C. olor were introduced to North American city parks, zoos, avicultural collections, and estates in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Bellrose 1980). The intentional release and accidental escape of these birds resulted in the establishment of populations along the northeastern Atlantic Coast of the United States, portions of the Pacific Coast, and more recently, the lower Great Lakes (Petrie and Francis, 2003).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
Uses ListTop of page
- Botanical garden/zoo
Human food and beverage
- Fresh meat
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Increasing the mortality of adult mute swans through culling would be three or four times more efficient than egg destruction, but culling is, and will remain, unacceptable in many areas (Watola et al. 2003).
Petrie and Francis (2003) recommend that the first step to management be to remove mute swans from the list of protected species in all regions in the United States and Canada. Second, they recommend initiation of a control programme. Non-lethal control programmes have been implemented in a number of the eastern United States, but their effectiveness has been limited. Capture and removal programmes or shooting would be most beneficial in removing adult swans from the current populations, but swan capture and removal would be costly and it is doubtful that sufficiently large numbers could be captured in a cost-effective manner. Encouraging hunters and managers to shoot adults would be a far more effective strategy. Such a programme would be unlikely to eradicate the species, but would probably be sufficient to maintain the regional population at no more than a few hundred individuals. In areas where lethal control may not be appropriate, such as city parks, egg oiling could also be implemented to prevent population expansion (Petrie and Francis, 2003).
BibliographyTop of page
Allin, C. C., and T. P. Husband. 2003. C. olor (Cygnus olor) impact on submerged aquatic vegetation and macro invertebrates in a Rhode Island coastal pond. Northeastern Naturalist 10(3): 305-318.
Bergman, D. L., M. D. Chandler, and A. Locklear. 2004. Economic Impact of Invasive Species to Wildlife Services' Cooperators. USDA. APHIS. Wildlife Services. Proceedings of the Third National Wildlife Research Center Special Symposium: Human Conflicts with Wildlife: Economic Considerations.
Chesapeake Bay Program. 2002. Mute swan Cygnus olor. Invasive Species in the Chesapeake Watershed. http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/exotics/workshop/mute_swan.html
Ivory, A. 2002. Cygnus olor. (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Cygnus_olor.html
Perry M. C., P. C. Osenton, and E. J. R. Lohnes. 2002. The Exotic Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) in Chesapeake Bay, USA. . USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Petrie, S. A., and C. M. Francis. 2003. Rapid increase in the lower Great Lakes population of feral C. olor's: a review and a recommendation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 2003, 31(2):407-416.
Watola, G. V., D. A. Stone, G. C. Smith, G. J. Forrester, A. E. Coleman, J. T. Coleman, M. J. Goulding, K. A. Robinson, and T. P. Milsom. 2003. Analyses of two C. olor populations and the effects of clutch reduction: implications for population management . Journal of Applied Ecology 2003 40:565-579.
ReferencesTop of page
ContributorsTop of page
Reviewed by: Expert review underway: Michel Gauthier-Clerc, Station Biologique de la Tour Du Valat France
Principal sources:Chesapeake Bay Program, 2002. Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Petrie and Francis, 2003. Rapid increase in the lower Great Lakes population of feral mute swanss: a review and a recommendation
Distribution MapsTop of page
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