A mute swan and cygnet.
Wedges of migratory birds, drifting overhead, is one of the most familiar winter sights in the Chesapeake. Ducks, geese, and swans seek refuge in the Bay’s many coves, creeks, and fields, populating icy shallows with their bright plumage and distinctive woodwind calls while feeding on the Bay’s vast underwater meadows. Traditionally, swans were smaller in number than the other waterfowl, and their ivory feathers and huge wingspan stood out distinctively from the rest of the flock. You could expect to see mostly Tundra or Trumpeter swans, both indigenous to North America, whose fluting or hornlike calls respectively made them just as identifiable by sound alone.
But since the 1950’s, there’s been a beautiful impostor infiltrating the Chesapeake- the mute swan. As year-round residents, these European swans devour the already-imperiled underwater grasses of the Bay, and addressing the problem of their population boom and its impact has created controversy among Chesapeake residents and landowners, bird lovers, and the Department of Natural Resources.
Kent Mountford, writer for the Chesapeake Bay Journal, discusses the history of the Chesapeake’s swan conundrum here: http://bit.ly/gIW68
But how to tell these swans apart? The Washington Post has a great, short article on swan identification and a snippet about the controversy brewing over mute swans: http://wapo.st/t2JRXr
What’s your opinion on the Bay’s swan problem?