Five things you (probably) didn’t know about…
• The idea that swans are largely silent until they perform a ‘swan song’ before death is a myth. All species perform courtship dances, often accompanied by hissing and grunting. Trumpeter swans also honk—or trumpet.
• Although swans mate for life, there are rare cases of ‘divorce’—often after a poor breeding season. The only swan to be regularly unfaithful is the female Australian black swan.
• Despite the warnings, it’s unlikely that a swan, which has quite thin bones, could break a healthy adult’s arm. However, if caught by the wing joint, you’re likely to acquire a decent bruise.
• The annual swan-upping ceremony on the Thames, now a monitoring exercise, is a tradition stemming from the Middle Ages, when the birds were owned by and traded between noblemen. To keep track of the offspring and who they belonged to, the birds were rounded up and distinctive nicks made in their beaks.
• The aggressive display made by a swan when it feels threatened is known as ‘busking’. VM