Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Male mute swan incubates eggs in the nest.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Female mute swan joins male, who is sitting on their clutch of eggs in the nest.

During breeding season, the easiest way to differentiate between male and female mute swans is by comparing the black knob at the base of the male’s beak. During nesting time, the cob (male) has an enlarged black knob compared to the smaller one of the pen (female).

If you look closely at the two nesting swans shown here, the swan sitting on the eggs has the enlarged knob signifying a male.

This is only the second time I have ever observed two mute swans on a nest together – a couple of weeks ago was the first sighting. Looking at that first photo (click here) it was the female sitting on the eggs back then.

My takeaway from observing these two at their nest over the past three weeks is that (some) mute swan pairs share (some) responsibility for incubating their eggs. I am not sure if they share that duty as equally as other birds, such as the great blue heron, or how universal this behavior is for other mute swans of North America. It’s a bit of a mystery.

I love a good mystery.


Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for their Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra-Extra. This week, Michelle has challenged us to post a photo with an extra, unexpected detail. Seeing that it was the male swan incubating the eggs – and not the female – was an extra detail, one that I nearly missed, until I looked more closely at the photos from that day’s session.

Thanks to Sue for her A Word A Week Challenge: Happy. I’m guessing that the female swan is happy to have an egalitarian mate, one who shares the traditionally female chore of sitting on the eggs.


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Mute Swan, Kayaking

Posted on June 16, 2014, in A Word A Week Photo Challenge, Art, Audubon, Birds, Kayaking, Mute Swan, Nature, Photography, Photography challenge, postaday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I will try to remember this fact when I next see swans sitting 🙂

  2. Wonderful. I love swans and your posts discussing them is wonderful:) and the photos are priceless.

  3. It’s really hard to distinguish the male v. female in my bald eagle pair. After some serious searching, I found a good example of comparing the size and shape of the beaks, but that’s rather subtle when they’re alone. Much easier to tell when they’re together and the overall size, plus the beak thing becomes more obvious. As you put it: I love a good mystery!

  4. The female sits on the nest for the vast majority of the time, while the male does guard duty. When she needs to eat, or just take a break, she will leave the nest, and the male will take over until she returns.

  5. HI I was ooking up about Mute Swan and who usually incubates the eggs and for from I could find, they say it is the female who does it for 36 days so finding a male incubating in unusual so I also will have to wait to see what happens next year.

    • I think that Quieteolopursuits has it correct when he says that the male relieves the female on the nest when she needs a break – to eat, etc. – but I’m definitely interested in what you can observe next breeding season there.

  6. Lovely shot and great observation. A couple of Swan facts:
    1. All the swans in England are “owned” by the Queen and it is a serious crime to harm them
    2. Swans pair for life

  7. Love seeing the beautiful swans!

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