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Mute Swan


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.


  • Calls
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Mute Swans aren’t mute, but their hoarse, muffled trumpet or bugle call given during territorial defense doesn’t carry like the calls of other swan species. Mute Swans also make an explosive snorting or hissing when threatened or disturbed. Mates greet each other with a short, snoring sound, and females solicit their mates with a slow glock, glock call. Female swans call to their broods with a sound like a yapping puppy. When in a group Mute Swans growl, whistle, and snort at each other. Cygnets whistle a soft, low-volume contact call when preening or feeding with adults, and peep noisily at a high pitch when distressed or lost.

Other Sounds

As they land Mute Swans slap the water with their feet, either pattering alternately or striking simultaneously, to alert possible intruders. In flight the swan’s wings make a rhythmic humming or whistling sound that carries more than a mile and may help the birds communicate with each other.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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