Mute Swan

Cygnus olor

A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.

Interesting Information

  • Downy young Mute Swans (called cygnets) come in two color morphs: a gray form and a white form. The gray (or "Royal") chicks start off with gray down and grow in gray-brown and white feathers, giving them a mottled look. White (or "Polish") chicks have all white down and juvenal feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs and feet instead of black, but otherwise the adults look alike.

  • The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male.
  • The black knob at the base of the male Mute Swan's bill swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the female's. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious.


Adult Description

  • Large, all-white waterfowl.

  • Long, curved neck.

  • Orange bill and black face.

  • Length Range: 142-157 cm (56-62 in)

  • Weight: 11789 g (416 oz)

  • Size: Very Large (32 - 72 in)

  • Color Primary: White

  • Underparts: White

  • Upperparts: White

  • Back Pattern: Solid

  • Belly Pattern: Solid

  • Breast Pattern: Solid

Sex Differences

Sexes similar.


Dirty gray or white. Legs gray or pinkish. Bill gray or tan, turning pinkish. Bill knob lacking or small. Lores white and feathered, turning black.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley


Photo taken from: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


Photo taken from: Trumpeter Swan Society

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Prefers shallow coastal ponds, estuaries, ponds, bogs, and streams flowing into lakes.


Tips-up to reach submerged aquatic vegetation.


Aquatic plants and some aquatic animals.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
    Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Cygnus
Species: Cygnus olor

Similar Species

  • Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan have all black bills without knobs and straight necks. Juveniles have pink bills, but show varying amounts of black as they age.

  • Snow Goose smaller and with shorter neck, black wingtips, pink bill.

  • Domestic goose smaller, with shorter neck, and pink or orange legs.

  • White Pelican has short neck, large yellow or orange bill, orange legs, and black flight feathers.

Bird Sound

Not mute. Calls quiet and do not carry. A snorting "heorrr." Hisses aggressively. Wings make singing noise in flight.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution