Swan and her cygnets on a nest in Stroud, Gloucestershire
© PJ photography/Shutterstoc
Happy Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday
On Mothering Sunday, we’re joining this mute swan and her cygnets, nesting on the river bank in the Cotswolds. These beautiful birds are a familiar sight all year round on canals, ponds and rivers across the UK, but during breeding season it is best to keep your distance. One of the largest breeds of waterfowl, they can turn aggressive if they feel the nest is under threat and have been known to attack humans, dogs, foxes and birds of prey.
Renowned for their grace, mute swans mate for life and have a reputation for romance – partners form a perfect heart shape with their long S-shaped necks. However, their cygnets have downy, brown fluff and short necks and while the “ugly duckling” of the Hans Christian Andersen tale seems a little harsh, it will be their second winter before they fully mature into their white plumage.
Both parents are devoted to their offspring and the cob – the male – will look after the nest while the pen - the female – is off feeding. The pen plucks feathers from her underside to line the nest and allow her eggs to be kept closer to her. Once they hatch, cygnets will spend 24 hours on the nest before entering the water although, while they are small, their mother will often carry them on her back.