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In May, the first cygnets of the year be­gin to hatch. The mute swan, the most com­mon swan in the UK, will in­cu­bate its clutch of four to 10 eggs for up to six weeks. When they emerge, the cygnets weigh just 7-11oz (200-300g). They have a char­coal-coloured bill and feet, and their downy plumage is white or dove grey, some­times with a faint rusty tinge. Within 24 hours, cygnets are able to leave the nest and are en­cour­aged into the wa­ter, where they quickly learn to dive and swim. Here, they are safer from mam­malian preda­tors, and within two weeks, they are able to feed them­selves on a pro­tein-rich diet of in­sects and crus­taceans. When fully fledged at 2-3 months old, they will have switched to their adult, plant-based diet and will weigh ap­prox­i­mately 18lb (8kg); half their adult weight. They will re­tain their mot­tled grey and white colour­ing through the ju­ve­nile phase. Though now able to fly, the cygnets will stay close to their par­ents un­til the fol­low­ing spring, when they are chased away so that the par­ents can be­gin the nest­ing and breed­ing process again.

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