• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Mute Swan

Cygnus olor ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The exotic Mute Swan is the elegant bird of Russian ballets and European fairy tales. This swan swims with its long neck curved into an S and often holds its wings raised slightly above its back. Although they’re numerous and familiar in city parks and in bays and lakes in the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, Northeast, and Midatlantic, Mute Swans are not native to North America. Their aggressive behavior and voracious appetites often disturb local ecosystems, displace native species, and even pose a hazard to humans.

Keys to identification Help

Ducklike
Ducklike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Mute Swans are very large waterfowl. They have heavy bodies, short legs, and a long, slender neck habitually held in a graceful S. The large, flat bill has a bulging knob at the base.

  • Color Pattern

    Mute Swans are entirely white with a bill that is orange with a black base. Young swans (cygnets) may be dusky brown-gray all over, with a gray-black bill.

  • Behavior

    Mute Swans spend most of their time floating on the water. They feed by grazing on underwater vegetation in shallow water, tipping up their bodies if necessary. These aggressive birds often hold their wings half-raised in a display as they swim toward an intruder.

  • Habitat

    Look for Mute Swans in city-park ponds, as well as rivers, lakes, and estuaries.

Range Map Help

Mute Swan Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

Similar Species

Similar Species

North America’s two native species of swan, the Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan, have black or mostly black bills that lack both the orange color and the basal knob of the Mute Swan’s bill. They also hold their necks much straighter than Mute Swans do. Snow Geese are considerably smaller and shorter necked than Mute Swans. Snow Geese have a pink rather than orange bill, and they have black wingtips that are prominent in flight and usually partially visible when folded.

Find This Bird

Mute Swans were first brought to North America to decorate ponds and lakes in towns and cities, and that’s still the best place to find these familiar waterfowl. You may also find them on shallow wetlands, lakes, rivers, and estuaries within the scattered range where they’ve become established in the wild.

×

Search

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
×
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.

×

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.