Mute swan, Valkenhorst Nature Reserve, Valkenswaard, the Netherlands
© David Pattyn/Minden Picture
The mute swan seen here in a nature preserve in the Netherlands is the quintessential swan species of popular imagination. Despite their name, mute swans are not silent, although they are less vocal than other swan species. Mute swans are native to Europe and are an introduced species to North America, though they can be found in smaller numbers elsewhere, such as Australia, Asia and Africa. As they are non-migratory birds, mute swan pairs usually remain on the same breeding ground year-round unless they are forced to relocate due to challenging conditions.
Young swans are called cygnets and look very different than the adults they will become. Cygnets have dull grey down and dark bills. At about a year old, their feathers turn white and their bills orange. The transformation is part of the premise of the famous fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling”, about a forlorn duckling who discovers he is actually a swan. Admiring the swan featured in today's image, it is difficult to imagine it wasn’t always as regal.