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Mute Swans in Ireland

Mute Swan

The mute swan is one of Ireland's most attractive birds. With it's striking white plumage and long slender neck the mute swan is instantly recognisable. The male and female are very similar however the male is larger with a larger black knob on the forehead. Mute swans are amongst the largest flying birds in the world.

Juvenile mute swans, known as cygnets, are grey and relatively unattractive until they develop their adult white feathers.

Mute Swans are very territorial right throughout the year round and will vigorously defend their territories. When they feel threatened they puff out their plumage, to appear large, and will hiss loudly and use their wings to strike out if attacked. Usually he only time they become actively aggressive is when they are protecting their nesting ground or cygnets when they will chase off intruders, be they other swans or humans who get too close.

Although the average life span for a mute swan is ten years the longest lived mute swan was recorded at 28 years and five months in 2012.

Irish Name for Mute Swan

The Irish word for mute swan is Eala bhalbh.

Mute Swan Feeding

A mute swan's diet is largely based upon water plants. They use their extended neck to reach 1 meter below the water surface to graze. They also leave the water to graze on land vegetation. They are also known to feed on insects, molluscs and small amphibians.

Although feeding bread to swans and other water birds is a favourite activity for some humans, excessive feeding of this relatively low nutrition source can cause dietary imbalance. Bread should not be given to cygnets and young developing birds. Also, moulded bread should never be fed to swans as the mould is toxic and can be transferred from the beak to the plumage (during preening) and cause feather loss.

Mute Swans Nesting

Mute Swan eggs

A mute swan's nest is made from reed stem and other aquatic vegetation, with seaweed being used in coastal locations. Nests are very large mounds and will be sited on islands or other inaccessible locations is available.

Mute Swan's eggs are 113 x 74 mm and are smooth. Eggs weigh 340.0 g of which 11% approx. is shell. In the main the female incubates the eggs however once hatched the cygnets are cared for by both the female and male.

Newly born cygnets are mainly lost to crows, herons, magpies, pike and large perch. Both cygnets and adult mute swans are also the prey of foxes and mink.

Vandals, pollution, dogs, overhead cables, bridges, pylons, lead poisoning, fishing-tackle injuries are some of the main threats to swans.

Can a Swan Break Your Arm?

Yes. In theory it is possible. If a wing in full span and velocity were to hit a such as a child or an elderly person then it could occur. In reality it is almost unheard of and is never used as a form of attack as swans are a defensive bird.


Mute Swan

Scientific Name: Cygnus olor



Irish Status:

Length: 152cm Wingspan: 223cm Weight: M: 11.5kg / F:9kg

Call: : Adults may make a snorting or rumbling sound. Hisses loudly when under threat or alarmed.

Habitat: Wetlands - rivers, lakes & ponds, estuaries.

Diet: Aquatic vegetation (to 1m deep), also grazes on land; sometimes will take insects, molluscs and small amphibians

Breeding Age:
From 3/4 years
Number of Eggs:
No. of Clutches:
Incubation (days):
Fledging (days):
10 years. Record is 28 years.

Conservation Status in Ireland: AMBER

Mute Swan Range in Ireland

The mute swan is a permanent resident and is widespread and common throughout Ireland.

Map of the range of Mute Swans in Ireland.
Mute swans in Sean Walsh Park in Tallaght, Dublin 24
Mute swans in Sean Walsh Park in Tallaght, Dublin 24

Mute swan pen and cygnet in Sean Walsh Park in Tallaght, Dublin 24

More images of Swans in Tallaght - Images of Oil Damaged Swans in Tallaght

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