In early May we were delighted to see ‘our’ swans presenting their new family of eight cygnets. She successfully raised a similarly large brood last year all the way through to adulthood, which was a fantastic achievement. Sadly, however, this year I must report that very recently, and one by one, she lost three of her cygnets, reducing the family to five. These remaining five appear to be growing well (as seen here just over a month later), as were the three that have been lost.
It is not unusual to suffer casualties, albeit they had arguably passed the extremely dangerous stage when they could easily have been predated by corvids (crow family), mink or pike, for example. Alternatively they may well have been predated by foxes, or even otter, or may just have succumbed to illness. Dare I even suggest that maybe they suffered from too much ‘love’ from their admiring public, perhaps by consuming far too much unhealthy bread!
Photograph © Ian Jackson
Like us humans, ducks, swans and all bird life need a balanced diet and too many carbohydrates is not good for them, providing little nutritional value - equivalent to junk food for birds! They need a varied diet - natural plants and insect proteins - to mature properly. It is too easy for ducklings, cygnets and the like to get an easy meal from bread handouts, which may make them reliant and does not encourage them to forage for their important nutrient foods.
It's wonderful to see the ducks and swans with their young and a real joy for the children to be with them and to feed them, and I certainly do not wish to discourage this in any way. But, perhaps, we should just think about what they are being fed. Maybe, reduce the size and quantity of bread, and consider alternatives such as floating duck pellets, crushed biscuits, cereals, oats, bird seed, sweet corn, and even defrosted peas and shredded lettuce leaves – they all go towards providing a balanced healthy diet for our avian wildlife.
This is just a thought for you – and we all I’m sure, wish all our birds well, including of course ’our’ swan family, and so please, please continue to enjoy them.
Note: floating duck pellets can be purchased from Just Cards in Bridge Street.
Nigel Sprowell - Friend