Swan: Description, Habitat, & Fun Facts

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Table of Contents

Swan Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

Subfamily: Anserinae

Genus: Cygnus

Species: 6 species


Swan Description

The swan is a genus of the family Anatidae consisting of 6 species. They are distributed in the temperate regions of the world including North Americ, Eurasia, Australia, and Southern America. They belong to the waterfowl family with ducks and geese.

Of all 6 species, four have purely white plumage that is found in the Northern Hemisphere, and the other two species found in the Southern Hemisphere including black swans and the black-necked swans.


Swans feed mainly on the leaves and stems of submerged vegetation of water bodies, thus they are pure vegetarians. They usually dip their head or upending their whole body to feed in the water.

They also eat the roots and tubers and obtain them by digging into the substrate. However, at the juvenile stage, the swans are not vegetarian and feed on insects and crustaceans to increase their protein intake, but they adopt herbivory in their maturity.

Swan Reproduction

The shallow ponds, undisturbed lakes, slow rivers, wetlands, are preferred breeding habitats for swans. Due to their large size and weight, they require large water bodies or open lands for taking off.

They make their nests on mounds of aquatic vegetation close to the water’s edge. The nest is normally made by both parents that are used for several years after repair. Swans are monogamous, and both take care of eggs. Typically 3-8 eggs are laid by female swans, the number can increase up to 12 eggs in some species.

The trumpeter swan is the largest swan, which lays the largest egg among all flying birds. The egg weighs up to 11.3 ounces and has 2.9 inches in width, 4.5 inches in length.

In some species, both the parents incubate the eggs for 3-45 days, whereas in some other species females incubate, and the male guards the nest. Most of the species of swan show territorial behavior only during the breeding season and protect their nests from predators, and other animals.

However, some species are territorial year-round. After hatching the eggs, the cygnets become able to swim after few days. However, they complete long distances on their parents’ backs.

The swans show parental care for their young for 3-5 months in most species. However, the cygnets can feed on their own after few weeks. The black swan shows much longer parental care and cares for around 9 months.

The juveniles of tundra swans develop faster as compared to other swan species and are thought to fledge after 40-45 days.

Fun Facts About Swan!

Besides their beautiful appearance, swans also exhibit several interesting adaptations.

Migration Swan

Swans use separate summer and winter ranges thus called partially migratory species. The long-distance movement of organisms on a seasonal basis is known as migration. Bids, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and crustaceans all involve migratory movements.

The migration is affected by several factors such as local climate, mating requirements, season, food availability, etc. individuals migrate to complete their needs. For example, humpback whales migrate in winter to the warm waters of the pacific to give birth in the warm waters.

Swan including whooper swan and tundra swan are fully migratory species. They breed at northern latitudes during summer and then migrate towards southern latitudes.

The mute swans have the resident populations that exist in Western Europe, they are the only partially migratory swan species.

The black swan shows erratic migratory patterns thus it is called nomadic. They mainly migrates based on rainfall and climatic conditions.

Brittle Bones

The largest flying birds in the world include swans. The trumpeter swan, found in North America is considered the heaviest extant bird. To fly successfully, they need all the possible help including their weaker bone structure.

The bones are distinguishable by bones of other animals, which are honey-comb-like structures. The bones of swans are more vulnerable to breakages.

The weaker bones are an example of a trade-off. In this phenomenon, a beneficial change of one trait is connected to a harmful change in another trait.

For example, the body size, bone density, and flying ability of a bird cannot be optimized simultaneously due to the laws of physics. This problem is overcome by different species in different ways such as hummingbirds reduce their size, and swans evolve weak bones.

Mutual Courtship

Swans are monogamous and before reaching sexual maturity, they form pair bonds. For example, the trumpeter swan forms pairs from as early as 20 months old but it reaches sexual maturity at the age of 4-7 years.

Like other socially monogamous bird species, swans also follow courtship rituals before mating that strengthen their pair bonds. The courtship rituals in swans may vary.

It includes the formation of heart shape with both of their necks of male and female. They also use vocals during these rituals and black swans use specific feathers in their courtship ritual. The vocals also vary among species.

For example, a honking sound is produced by trumpeter swan with head bobbing, and soft sounds are produced by tundra swans and whooper swans after mating.

Swan Citations
  • Treating the Proximal Interphalangeal Joint in Swan Neck and Boutonniere Deformities. Hand Clin . 2018 May;34(2):167-176.
  • Volar transfer of the lateral band with transverse retinacular ligament is effective for the correction of swan-neck deformity caused by volar plate injury of the PIP joint. Mod Rheumatol Case Rep . 2020 Jan;4(1):152-155.


Similar Post:

Leave a Reply