Mute swan in Valkenhorst Nature Reserve, near Valkenswaard, the Netherlands
© David Pattyn/Minden Picture
In fine feather. Mute swan
The mute swan has become a symbol of beauty and elegance, thanks in no small part to The Ugly Duckling, the fairy tale about an awkward duckling who grows up to discover he is a swan. The story is often used as a lesson in transformation and the relative nature of beauty. One glance at this swan, seen here holding a feather in a nature preserve in the Netherlands, and it‘s easy to see how the saying ‘graceful as a swan‘ came about.
Mute swans are native to Europe and, despite their name, they do make sounds, although they tend to be less vocal than other swan species. This species is also the source of the phrase ‘swan song’ which refers to the final act or performance of a long career. Long ago, it was believed that swans sang a beautiful song shortly before their deaths, after lifetimes of silence.