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The charity making life better by water


From the grace of 'Swan Lake' to the charm of 'The Ugly Duckling', the swan is a popular character in our culture, as well as along our canals.

Swan on water with reflection

The elegant birds that glide across the water with their long necks stylishly arched have been material for myths and legends since storytelling began. As romantic icons, they rival Romeo and Juliet.

Mute swans mate for life, forming strong emotional bonds when they pair up. Both parents play a role in guarding and rearing their offspring. The rumour of royal ownership also enhances the swan's regal bearing. In truth, the Queen only claims ownership of some unmarked swans on certain stretches of the River Thames.

The swan most familiar to us in the UK is the mute swan, so called because they make comparatively little vocal noise while flying. These birds can be found year-round on most of our lakes, slow-moving rivers and canals, both in open country and in busier towns and cities. Mute swans display little fear of humans in Britain where they have long been domesticated, but the wild birds in Asia are more timid and difficult to approach.

Young swans, known as cygnets, leave the nest after just two days and follow their parents to the water. Sometimes an endearing family portrait is formed when the cygnets are carried on Mum or Dad's back, sheltered by their curved white wings.

Family nature guide 2019

Download your free nature guide

Identify footprints and read fascinating facts about the creatures who make their homes along our canals and rivers

Last Edited: 16 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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