Swans and peacocks seem to be some of the most popular species for visitors to our local bird and wildlife sanctuary. The sanctuary has two sets of swans; the mated pair of mute swans which produce a brood every year, and a pair of trumpeter swans that come back to the marsh to nest every year. The mute swans we get here are very large. When standing upright, the top of their head comes to just about my shoulder. They are quite used to humans, and unless you try to touch them, you can walk up quite close to them without eliciting any sort of reaction. However, if you try to get too close when they’ve got their offspring with them, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a chase. They’re quite protective. You can within a few feet of the babies, and things are fine, but don’t try to get any closer. Under normal circumstances, they aren’t terribly aggressive, at least not with humans, and although I’ve been “warned” once or twice, they’ve never bitten or physically touched me.
It’s quite a different story when the mix contains trumpeters and Canada Geese though. These two seem to be mortal enemies, with constant conflicts and attacks on each other, noisy chases, both in-water, and in-flight, and sadly … they do their utmost to destroy each other’s eggs. The trumpeters will also kill the baby geese if they are left unprotected. I’m not sure why these two are constantly at each other’s throats. Territorial I suppose, yet the Canada Geese, and the ducks and mute swans don’t have any of these problems. They manage to live in the wetlands with very little conflict at all, but when the trumpeters arrive … well, all hell breaks loose. The trumpeters and mutes nest in different areas, and seem almost oblivious to each other, ignoring the presence of the other, even when they are on the same spit of land.
The mute swans are much more aggressive towards humans than the trumpeters have been. Whether it’s this particular pair, or whether it’s just their nature I don’t know. I’ve been bitten, knocked over by head butts and constantly hissed at with the mutes. And not just when they have their babies, but they are most aggressive during nesting season, and after the babies are hatched. Oddly, one would think the aggression is to protect the babies, but I have seen these swans (the female in particular) actually step ON her tiny babes in order to be fed her greens first, or to snatch hand-fed lettuce almost from the babies mouths. On the whole, they seem good parents, teaching the babies what they need to know to survive; how to churn up the grasses and algae in the pond to find food, how to swim and clean their feathers, and even how to climb out of the pond, but when it comes to feeding time on land, the babies need to watch for mom’s big feet.
There’s also a single pair of peacocks, and so far, I have only seen one set of babies (called peachicks) issue from them. I’ve seen eggs laid a few times, but they don’t always seem to hatch and what I found was odd, was the fact that one day on our arrival to the sanctuary, the peacock eggs had been scattered about the ground cage, and both the male and female (called a peahen) studiously avoided the eggs, paying them no attention at all. I’ve also been there to see the male’s mating behaviour, and the female paying him little mind at all. Almost like humans, right?