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Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Cygnus
Bechstein, 1803

6-7 living, see text.


Cygnanser Kretzoi, 1957

Swans, genus Cygnus, are birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form the tribe Cygnini. Sometimes, they are considered a distinct subfamily, Cygninae. There are six to seven species of swan in the genus Cygnus; in addition there is another species known as a swan, the Coscoroba Swan, although this species is no longer considered related to the true swans. Swans usually mate for life, though 'divorce' does sometimes occur, particularly following nesting failure. The number of eggs in each clutch ranges from three to eight.


Etymology and terminology

The word swan is derived from Old English swan, akin to the German Schwan and Dutch zwaan and Swedish svan, in turn derived from Indo-European root *swen (to sound, to sing), whence Latin derives sonus (sound).[1] Young swans are known as cygnets, from the Latin word for swan, cygnus. An adult male is a cob, from Middle English cobbe (leader of a group); an adult female is a pen.


The swans are the largest members of the duck family Anatidae, and are amongst the largest flying birds. The largest species, including the mute swan, trumpeter swan, and whooper swan, can reach length of over 1.5 m (60 inches) and weigh over 15 kg (33 pounds). Their wingspans can be almost 3 m (10 ft). Compared to the closely related geese they are much larger in size and have proportionally larger feet and necks.[2] They also have a patch of unfeathered skin between the eyes and bill in adults. The sexes are alike in plumage, but males are generally bigger and heavier than females.

Swan preening itself

The Northern Hemisphere species of swan have pure white plumage but the Southern Hemisphere species are mixed black and white. The Australian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) is completely black except for the white flight feathers on its wings; the chicks of black swans are light grey in colour, and the South American Black-necked Swan has a black neck.

The legs of swans are normally a dark blackish grey colour, except for the two South American species, which have pink legs. Bill colour varies: the four subarctic species have black bills with varying amounts of yellow, and all the others are patterned red and black. The Mute Swan and Black-necked Swan have a lump at the base of the bill on the upper mandible.

Distribution and movements

Whooper Swans migrate from Iceland, Scandinavia and Northern Russia to Europe, Central Asia, China and Japan

The swans are generally found in temperate environments, rarely occurring in the tropics. Four (or five) species occur in the Northern Hemisphere, one species is found in Australia and New Zealand and one species is distributed in southern South America. They are absent from tropical Asia, Central America, northern South America and the entirety of Africa. One species, the Mute Swan, has been introduced to North America, Australia and New Zealand.[2]

Several species are migratory, either wholly or partly so. The Mute Swan is a partial migrant, being resident over areas of Western Europe but wholly migratory in Eastern Europe and Asia. The Whooper Swan and Tundra Swan are wholly migratory, and the Trumpeter Swans are almost entirely migratory.[2] There is some evidence that the Black-necked Swan is migratory over part of its range, but detailed studies have not established whether these movements are long or short range migration.[3]


Swans feed in the water and on land. They are almost entirely herbivorous, although small numbers of aquatic animals may be eaten. In the water food is obtained by up-ending or dabbling, and their diet is composed of the roots, tubers, stems and leaves of aquatic and submerged plants.[2]

A feeding Mute Swan in ice-covered pool, Hanover

Swans form monogamous pair bonds that last for many years, and in some cases these can last for life.[4] Modern genetic techniques are starting to reveal that 'divorces' are more common than previously thought.[5] These bonds are maintained year round, even in gregarious and migratory species like the Tundra Swan, which congregate in large flocks in the wintering grounds.[6] The nest is on the ground near water and about a metre across. Unlike many other ducks and geese the male helps with the nest construction. Average egg size (for the mute swan) is 113 x 74 mm, weighing 340 g, in a clutch size of 4 to 7, and an incubation period of 34–45 days.[7] With the exception of the dendrocygninaes they are the only anatids where the males aid in incubating the eggs.

Mute swans have been observed to display homosexual or transgender behavior.[8]

Systematics and evolution

All evidence suggests that the genus Cygnus evolved in Europe or western Eurasia during the Miocene, spreading all over the Northern Hemisphere until the Pliocene. When the southern species branched off is not known. The Mute Swan apparently is closest to the Southern Hemisphere Cygnus (del Hoyo et al., eds, Handbook of the Birds of the World); its habits of carrying the neck curved (not straight) and the wings fluffed (not flush) as well as its bill color and knob indicate that its closest living relative is actually the Black Swan. Given the biogeography and appearance of the subgenus Olor it seems likely that these are of a more recent origin, as evidence shows by their modern ranges (which were mostly uninhabitable during the last ice age) and great similarity between the taxa.

A Swan in Imbersago (Italy)

Genus Cygnus

  • Subgenus Cygnus
    • Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, is a Eurasian species that occurs at lower latitudes than Whooper Swan and Bewick's Swan across Europe into southern Russia, China and the Russian Maritimes. Recent fossil records, according to the British Ornithological Union, show Cygnus olor is among the oldest bird species still extant and it has been upgraded to "native" species in several European countries, since this bird has been found in fossil and bog specimens dating back thousands of years. Common temperate Eurasian species, often semi-domesticated; descendants of domestic flocks are naturalized in the United States and elsewhere.
Cygnus atratus and cygnet.
Black-necked swan at WWT London Wetland Centre
  • Subgenus Chenopis
  • Subgenus Sthenelides
  • Subgenus Olor
    • Whooper Swan, Cygnus cygnus breeds in Iceland and subarctic Europe and Asia, migrating to temperate Europe and Asia in winter.
    • Trumpeter Swan, Cygnus buccinator is the largest North American swan. Very similar to the Whooper Swan (and sometimes treated as a subspecies of it), it was hunted almost to extinction but has since recovered.
    • Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus is a small swan which breeds on the North American tundra, further north than Trumpeter Swan. It winters in the USA.
      • Bewick's Swan, Cygnus (columbianus) bewickii is the Eurasian form which migrates from Arctic Russia to western Europe and eastern Asia (China, Japan) in winter. It is often considered a subspecies of C. columbianus, creating the species Tundra Swan.

The fossil record of the genus Cygnus is quite impressive, although allocation to the subgenera is often tentative; as indicated above, at least the early forms probably belong to the C. olor - Southern Hemisphere lineage, whereas the Pleistocene taxa from North America would be placed in Olor. A number of prehistoric species have been described, mostly from the Northern Hemisphere. Among them was the giant Siculo-Maltese C. falconeri which was taller (though not heavier) than the contemporary local dwarf elephants (Elephas falconeri).

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) with nine cygnets
Swan eating grass

Fossil swans

  • Cygnus csakvarensis (Late Miocene of Hungary) - formerly Cygnanser
  • Cygnus mariae (Early Pliocene of Wickieup, USA)
  • Cygnus verae (Early Pliocene of Sofia, Bulgaria)
  • Cygnus liskunae (Middle Pliocene of W Mongolia)
  • Cygnus hibbardi (?Early Pleistocene of Idaho, USA)
  • Cygnus sp. (Early Pleistocene of Dursunlu, Turkey: Louchart et al. 1998)
  • Giant Swan, Cygnus falconeri (Middle Pleistocene of Malta and Sicily, Mediterranean)
  • Cygnus paloregonus (Middle Pleistocene of WC USA) - includes "Anser" condoni and C. matthewi
  • Dwarf Swan Cygnus equitum (Middle - Late Pleistocene of Malta and Sicily, Mediterranean)
  • Cygnus lacustris (Late Pleistocene of Lake Eyre region, Australia) - formerly Archaeocygnus
  • Cygnus sp. (Pleistocene of Australia)[citation needed]

The supposed fossil swans "Cygnus" bilinicus and "Cygnus" herrenthalsi were, respectively, a stork and some large bird of unknown affinity (due to the bad state of preservation of the referred material). Anser atavus is sometimes placed in Cygnus.

The Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba) from South America, the only species of its genus, is apparently not a true swan. Its phylogenetic position is not fully resolved; it is in some aspects more similar to geese and shelducks.

Role in culture

A swan depicted on an Irish commemorative coin in celebration of its EU accession.
"Łabędź" (Polish for "Swan") is a Polish coat of arms which was used by many szlachta (noble) families under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The variant here given is the coat-of-arms of writer Henryk Sienkiewicz's family.

Many of the cultural aspects refer to the Mute Swan of Europe. Perhaps the best known story about a swan is The Ugly Duckling fable. The story centres around a duckling that is mistreated until it becomes evident he is a swan and is accepted into the habitat. He was mistreated because real ducklings are, according to many, more attractive than a cygnet, yet cygnets become swans, which are very attractive creatures. Swans are often a symbol of love or fidelity because of their long-lasting monogamous relationships. See the famous swan-related operas Lohengrin and Parsifal.

The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the largest native species of waterfowl in North America

Swans feature strongly in mythology. In Greek mythology, the story of Leda and the Swan recounts that Helen of Troy was conceived in a union of Zeus disguised as a swan and Leda, Queen of Sparta. Other references in classical literature include the belief that upon death the otherwise silent Mute Swan would sing beautifully - hence the phrase swan song; as well as Juvenal's sarcastic reference to a good woman being a "rare bird, as rare on earth as a black swan", from which we get the Latin phrase rara avis, rare bird.

The Irish legend of the Children of Lir is about a stepmother transforming her children into swans for 900 years. In the legend The Wooing of Etain, the king of the Sidhe (subterranean-dwelling, supernatural beings) transforms himself and the most beautiful woman in Ireland, Etain, into swans to escape from the king of Ireland and Ireland's armies. The swan has recently been depicted on an Irish commemorative coin.

In Norse mythology, there are two swans that drink from the sacred Well of Urd in the realm of Asgard, home of the gods. According to the Prose Edda, the water of this well is so pure and holy that all things that touch it turn white, including this original pair of swans and all others descended from them. The poem Volundarkvida, or the Lay of Volund, part of the Poetic Edda, also features swan maidens.

In the Finnish epic Kalevala, a swan lives in the Tuoni river located in Tuonela, the underworld realm of the dead. According to the story, whoever killed a swan would perish as well. Jean Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen Suite based on Kalevala, with the second piece entitled Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen). Today, five flying swans are the symbol of the Nordic Countries and the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) is the national bird of Finland.

In Latin American literature, the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (1867–1916) consecrated the swan as a symbol of artistic inspiration by drawing attention to the constancy of swan imagery in Western culture, beginning with the rape of Leda and ending with Wagner's Lohengrin. Darío's most famous poem in this regard is Blasón - "Coat of Arms" (1896), and his use of the swan made it a symbol for the Modernismo poetic movement that dominated Spanish language poetry from the 1880s until the First World War. Such was the dominance of Modernismo in Spanish language poetry that the Mexican poet Enrique González Martínez attempted to announce the end of Modernismo with a sonnet provocatively entitled, Tuércele el cuello al cisne - "Wring the Swan's Neck" (1910).

Mute Swan's nest with two unhatched eggs

Swans are revered in Hinduism, and are compared to saintly persons whose chief characteristic is to be in the world without getting attached to it, just as a swan's feather does not get wet although it is in water. The Sanskrit word for swan is hamsa or hansa, and it is the vehicle of many deities like the goddess Saraswati. It is mentioned several times in the Vedic literature, and persons who have attained great spiritual capabilities are sometimes called Paramahamsa ("Great Swan") on account of their spiritual grace and ability to travel between various spiritual worlds. In the Vedas, swans are said to reside in the summer on Lake Manasarovar and migrate to Indian lakes for the winter. They're believed to possess some powers such as the ability to eat pearls. They are also believed to be able to drink up the milk and leave the water from a saucer of milk adulterated with water. This is taken as a great quality, as shown by this Sanskrit verse:

Hamsah shwetah, bakah shwetah, kah bhedah hamsa bakayo?
Neeraksheera viveketu, Hamsah hamsah, bakah bakah!

(The swan is white, the duck is white, so how to differentiate between both of them?
With the milk-water test, the swan is proven swan, the duck is proven duck!)

Hindu iconography typically shows the Mute Swan. It is wrongly supposed by many historians that the word hamsa only refers to a goose, since today swans are no longer found in India, not even in most zoos. However, ornithological checklists clearly classify several species of swans as vagrant birds in India.

The ballet Swan Lake by Pyotr Tchaikovsky is considered among both the most important works of this composer and among the often-performed classics of ballet. It is partially based on an ancient German legend, which tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse - to which were added similar elements from Russian folk tales[9]. Some major elements (girls turned to swans and living in a lake, and a hero falling in love with one of them) are also shared by the Irish mythology story of Caer Ibormeith.

The 1994 American animated film The Swan Princess is also derived from the same ancient sources, featuring an evil sorcerer who kidnaps a princess named Odette and curses her so that she is a swan by day and a woman by night, until the prince comes to rescue her.

Hans Christian Anderson's tale "The Wild Swans" is similar to the "Children of Lir" story. The king has eleven sons and one daughter, named Elisa. The evil stepmother turns the eleven brothers into swans and banishes Elisa, an interesting exception to the tradition swan maidens.

The Black Swan is the faunal emblem of the Australian state of Western Australia and swans are featured on the coat of arms of Canberra, the Australian capital.

"The Bonny Swans" is a song from Loreena McKennitt's 1994 album The Mask and Mirror.

Carl Orff's cantata, Carmina Burana (and presumably also the collection of poetry upon which it is based) includes a text describing the roasting (and serving) of a swan as described from the swan's point of view.

In the United Kingdom there is a popular belief that all swans are the property of the reigning Monarch. In fact their right to ownership of swans is restricted to unmarked Mute Swans on open water, and this right is exercised only on certain stretches of the River Thames and some of its tributaries between Windsor and Abingdon.[10] However, strictly speaking the British swans are the property of the Queen, except for the Swans of Orkney. This is because of an old Udal Viking law that states that the swans are the property of the residents of the islands. This was proven in 1910 when an Orkney lawyer won the case of a man who shot a swan.


  1. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary
  2. ^ a b c d Kear, Janet, ed (2005). Ducks, Geese and Swans. Bird Families of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861008-4. 
  3. ^ Schlatter, Roberto; Rene A. Navarro & Paulo Corti (2002). "Effects of El Nino Southern Oscillation on Numbers of Black-Necked Swans at Rio Cruces Sanctuary, Chile". Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology 25 (Special Publication 1): 114–122. 
  4. ^ Rees, Eileen. "6:Mate fidelity in swans, an interspecific comparison". in Jeffrey M. Black, Mark Hulme. Partnerships in birds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 118–122. ISBN 0198548605. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Scott, D.K. (1980). "Functional aspects of the pair bond in winter in Bewick's swans (Cygnus columbianus bewickii)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 7 (4): 323–327. doi:10.1007/BF00300673. 
  7. ^ British Trust for Ornithology Mute Swan
  8. ^ Bagemihl, Bruce (1999) Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity St. Martin's Press ISBN 0-312-19239-8 pages 487-491
  9. ^ such as The White Duck collected by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki
  10. ^
  • Louchart, Antoine; Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile; Guleç, Erksin; Howell, Francis Clark & White, Tim D. (1998): L'avifaune de Dursunlu, Turquie, Pléistocène inférieur: climat, environnement et biogéographie. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris IIA 327(5): 341-346. [French with English abridged version] doi:10.1016/S1251-8050(98)80053-0 (HTML abstract)

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SWAN (A. S. swan and swon, Icel. svanr, Du. zwaan, Ger. Schwan), a large swimming-bird, well known from being kept in a half-domesticated condition throughout many parts of Europe, whence it has been carried to other countries. In England it was far more abundant formerly than at present, the young, or cygnets,' being highly esteemed for the table, and it was under especial enactments for its preservation, and regarded as a "bird royal" that no subject could possess without licence from the Crown, the granting of which licence was accompanied by the condition that every bird in a "game" (to use the old legal term) of swans should bear a distinguishing mark of ownership (cygninota) on the bill. Originally this privilege was conferred on the larger freeholders only, but it was gradually extended, so that in the reign of Elizabeth upwards of 900 distinct swan-marks, being those of private persons or corporations, were recognized by the royal swanherd, whose jurisdiction extended over the whole kingdom. It is impossible here to enter into further details on this subject, interesting as it is from various points of view. 2 It is enough to remark that all the legal protection afforded to the swan points out that it was not indigenous to the British Islands, and indeed it is stated (though on uncertain authority) to have been introduced to England in the reign of Richard Ceeur de Lion; but it it now so perfectly naturalized that birds having the full power of flight remain in the country. There is no evidence to show that its numbers are ever increased by immigration from abroad, though it is known to breed as a wild bird not farther from the British shores than the extreme south of Sweden and possibly in Denmark, whence it may be traced, but with considerable vacuities, in a south-easterly direction to the valley of the Danube and the western part of Central Asia. In Europe, however, no definite limits:! can be assigned for its natural range, since birds more or less reclaimed and at liberty consort with those that are truly wild, and either induce them to settle in localities beyond its boundary, or of themselves occupy such localities, so that no difference is observable between them and their untamed brethren. From its breeding-grounds, whether they be in Turkestan, in south-eastern Europe or Scania, the swan migrates southward towards winter, and at that season may be found in north-western India (though rarely), in Egypt, and on the shores of the Mediterranean.

The swan just spoken of is by some naturalists named the mute or tame swan, to distinguish it from one to be presently mentioned, but it is the swan simply of the English language Here, as in so many other cases, we have what may be called the "table-name" of an animal derived from the Norman-French, while that which it bore when alive was of Teutonic origin.

2 The king and the Companies of Dyers and Vintners still maintain their swans on the Thames, and a yearly expedition is made in the month of August to take up the young birds - thence called "swanupping" and corruptly "swan-hopping" - and mark them. The largest swannery in England, indeed the only one worthy of the name, is that belonging to Lord Ilchester, on the water called the Fleet, lying inside the Chesil Bank on the coast of Dorset, where from 700 to double that number of birds may be kept - a stock doubtless too great for the area, but very small when compared with the numbers that used to be retained on various rivers in the country. The swanpit at Norwich seems to be the only place now existing for fattening the cygnets for the table - an expensive process, but one fully appreciated by those who have tasted the results. The English swan-laws and regulations have been concisely but admirably treated by Serjeant Manning (Penny Cyclopaedia, xxiii. 271, 272).

and literature. Scientifically it is usually known as Cygnus olor. Its large size, its spotless white plumage, its orange-red bill, surmounted by a. black knob (technically the "berry") larger in the male than in the female, its black legs and stately appearance on the water are familiar, either from figures innumerable or from direct observation, to almost every one. When left to itself its nest is a large mass of aquatic plants, often piled to the height of a couple of feet and possibly some six feet in diameter. In the midst of this is a hollow which contains the eggs, generally from five to nine in number, of a greyish-olive colour. The period of incubation is between five and six weeks, and the young when hatched are clothed in sooty-grey down, which is succeeded by feathers of sooty-brown. This suit is gradually replaced by white, but the young birds are more than a twelvemonth old before they lose all trace of colouring and become wholly white.

It was, however, noticed by Plot (N.H. Staffordshire, p. 228) more than 200 years ago that certain swans on the Trent had white cygnets; and it was subsequently observed of such birds that both parents and progeny had legs of a paler colour, while the young had not the "blue bill" of ordinary swans at the same age that has in some parts of the country given them a name, besides offering a few other minor differences. These, being examined by W. Yarrell led him to announce (Proc. Zool. Society, 1838, p. 19) the birds presenting them as forming a distinct species, C. immutabilis, to which the English name of "Polish" swan had already been attached by the London poulterers,' but which is now regarded merely as a variety, not in any way specially associated with Poland but possibly a dimorphic form.

The whooper, whistling or wild swan' of modern usage, Cygnus musicus, which was doubtless always a winter-visitant to Britain, though nearly as bulky and quite as purely white in its adult plumage, is at once recognizable from the species which has been half domesticated by its wholly different but equally graceful carriage, and its bill - which is black at the tip and lemon-yellow for a great part of its base. This entirely distinct species is a native of Iceland, eastern Lapland and northern Russia, whence it wanders southward in autumn, and the musical tones it utters (contrasting with the silence that has caused its relative to be often called the mute swan) have been celebrated from the time of Homer to our own. Otherwise in a general way there is little difference between the habits of the two, and very closely allied to the whooper is a much smaller species, with very well marked characteristics, known as Bewick's Swan, C. bewicki. This was first indicated as a variety of the last by P. S. Pallas, but its specific validity is now fully established. Apart from size, it may be externally distinguished from the whooper by the bill having only a small patch of yellow, which inclines to an orange rather than a lemon tint; while internally the difference of the vocal organs is well marked, and its cry, though melodious enough, is unlike. It has a more easterly home in the north than the whooper, but in winter not infrequently occurs in Britain.

Both the species last mentioned have their representatives in North America, and in each case the transatlantic bird is considerably larger than that of the Old World. The first is the trumpeter-swan, C. buccinator, which has the bill wholly black, and the second the C. columbianus - greatly resembling Bewick's swan, but with the coloured patches on the bill of less extent and deepening almost into scarlet. South America produces two very distinct birds commonly regarded as swans, Cygnus melanocoryphus, the black-necked swan, and that which is called Coscoroba. This last, C. candida, which inhabits the southern extremity of the continent to Chile and the Argentine territory and visits the Falkland Islands, is the smallest species known - pure white in colour except the tip of its primaries, but having a red bill and red feet. 3 The former, if not discovered by earlier navigators, was 1 1Vr. Gerbe, in his edition of Degland's Ornithologie Europeenne (ii. 477), makes the amusing mistake of attributing this name to the fourreurs (furriers) of London, and of reading it Cygne du pole (polar, and not Polish, swan)!

In some districts it is called by wild-fowlers "elk," which perhaps may be cognate with the Icelandic Alft and the Old German Elbs or Elps (cf. Gesner, Ornithologia, pp. 35 8, 359), though by modern Germans Elb-Schwan seems to be used for the preceding species.

3 Dr Stejneger (Proc. U. S. Nat. Museum, 1882, pp. 177-179) has been at much pains to show that this is no swan at all, but merely a large Anatine form. Further research may prove that his views are well founded, and that this, with another very imperfectly known species, C. davidi, described by Swinhoe (Proc. Zool. Soc., observed by Narbrough on the 2nd of August 1670 in the Strait of Magellan, as announced in 1694 in the first edition of his Voyage (p. 52). It was subsequently found on the Falkland Islands during the French settlement there in 1764-1765, as stated by Pernetty (Voyage, 2nd ed., ii. 26, 99), and was first technically described in 1782 by Molina (Saggio sull y stor. nat. del Chile, pp. 2 34, 344). Its range seems to be much the same as that of the Coscoroba, except that it comes farther to the northward, to the coast of southern Brazil on the east, and perhaps into Bolivia on the west. It is a very handsome bird, of large size, with a bright red nasal knob, a black neck and the rest of its plumage pure white. It has been introduced into Europe, and breeds freely in confinement.

A greater interest than attaches to the South American birds last mentioned is that which invests the black swan of Australia, Chenopis atrata. Considered for so many centuries to be an impossibility, the knowledge of its existence seems to have impressed (more perhaps than anything else) the popular mind with the notion of the extreme divergence - not to say the contrariety - of the organic products of that country. By a singular stroke of fortune we are able to name the precise day on which this unexpected discovery was made. The Dutch navigator Willem de Vlaming, visiting the west coast of Zuidland (Southland), sent two of his boats on the 6th of January 1697 to explore an estuary he had found. There their crews saw at first two and then more black swans, of which they caught four, taking two of them alive to Batavia; and Valentyn, who several years later recounted this voyage, gives in his work 4 a plate representing the ship, boats and birds, at the mouth of what is now known from this circumstance as Swan river, the most important stream of the thriving colony of West Australia, which has adopted this very bird as its armorial symbol. Valentyn, however, was not the first to publish this interesting discovery. News of it soon reached Amsterdam, and the burgomaster of that city, Witsen by name, himself a fellow of the Royal Society, lost no time in communicating the chief facts ascertained, and among them the finding of the black swans, to Martin Lister, by whom they were laid before that society in October 1698, and printed in its Philosophical Transactions, xx. 361. Subsequent voyagers, Cook and others, found that the range of the species extended over the greater part of Australia, in many districts of which it was abundant. It has since rapidly decreased in numbers, but is not likely soon to cease to exist as a wild bird, while its singular and ornamental appearance will probably preserve it as a modified captive in most civilized countries. The species scarcely needs description: the sooty black of its general plumage is relieved by the snowy white of its flight-feathers and its coral-like bill banded with ivory.

The Cygninae admittedly form a well-defined group of the family Anatidae, and there is now no doubt as to its limits, except in the case of the Coscoroba above mentioned. This bird would seem to be, as is so often found in members of the South American fauna, a more generalized form, presenting several characteristics of the Anatinae, while the rest, even its black-necked compatriot and the almost wholly black swan of Australia, have a higher morphological rank. Excluding from consideration the littleknown C. davidi, of the five or six species of the northern hemisphere four present the curious character, somewhat analogous to that found in certain cranes, of the penetration of the sternum by the trachea nearly to the posterior end of the keel, whence it returns forward an upward again to revert and enter the lungs; but in the two larger of these species, when adult, the loop of the trachea between the walls of the keel takes a vertical direction, while in the two smaller the bend is horizontal, thus affording an easy mode of recognizing the respective species of each. Fossil remains of more than one species of swan have been found. The most remarkable is C. falconeri, which was nearly a third larger than the mute swan, and was described from a Maltese cave by W. K. Parker in the Zoological Society's Transactions, vi. I 19-124, pl. 30. (A. N.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

A swan
See also Swan




From Old English swan, from a Proto-Germanic root *swanaz (thus cognate with Old Saxon swan, Old Norse svanr, Dutch zwaan, German Schwan), probably literally "the singing bird," from a Proto-Indo-European base *swon-/*swen- "to sing, make sound" (thus related to Old English geswin "melody, song" and swinsian "to make melody")


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swan (plural swans)

  1. (plural also 'swan') Any of various species of large, long-necked waterfowl, of genus Cygnus, most of which have white plumage.
  2. (figuratively) One whose grace etc. suggests a swan

Derived terms


See also


to swan

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to swan (third-person singular simple present swans, present participle swanning, simple past and past participle swanned)

  1. (British) (intransitive) To travel from place to place with no fixed itinerary or purpose.
  2. To swear, declare

Usage notes

  • Usually as part of the phrase "to swan about"


Old English

Etymology 1

Common Germanic *swanaz, whence also Old High German swan, Old Norse svanr


swan m.

  1. A swan

Etymology 2

Common Germanic *swainiz, whence also Old High German swein, Old Norse sveinn


swān m.

  1. A lad

West Frisian


swan c.

  1. A swan


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Steven Swan article)

From Wikispecies

Steven Swan, herpetologist

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

mentioned in the list of unclean birds (Lev 11:18; Deut 14:16), is sometimes met with in the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

This article needs to be merged with SWAN (Jewish Encyclopedia).


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!


Scene from City of Heroes, V2 #10

Real name Lena Elliot
Status Active
Affiliations Vindicators
Previous affiliations
Notable powers Kinetics, Psychic blasts
Notes Robin to Manticore's Batman.

Swan is one of the signature heroes in City of Heroes.


Like Numina, Swan's parents were both mystics, and Swan herself was born on the Vernal Equinox, which gave her very good luck throughout her life. When she was 21, her family was attacked by both the Circle of Thorns and the 5th Column (precursors of the current Council), who were searching for a pair of mystical rings. Lena's powers manifested and she was able to create a shield around her family. Manticore, who had been following the 5th, came to their rescue and the two of them fought the villains off. Unfortunatly, the 5th Column managed to kidnap her parents in the fight. Swan became Manticore's sidekick in the hopes of one day finding them alive.

It's unknown why she chose the name Swan, unless it's to emphasize Manticore's simularities to Batman.


Swan is the trainer for Brickstown near her mentor.

This article uses material from the "Swan" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Cygnus
Bechstein, 1803

Cygnanser Kretzoi, 1957

A swan (Cygnini) is a kind of water bird, from the genera Cygnus and Coscoroba. They are in the subfamily Anserinae, in the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and ducks.

Many swans live in colder places, such as northern Europe, Asia and North America. They live on water. They swim on top of the water and eat plants off the bottom of ponds, lakes, or oceans. They also eat insects and other small animals. Swans can also fly.

A baby swan is called a cygnet. The name of the constellation Cygnus is from the Latin word for swan.


The swans are some of the largest flying birds. They are large in size and have large feet and long necks. The males are usually bigger and heavier than females. The Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, and Whooper Swan are the largest swans. They can be over 1.5m (60 inches) long. They can weigh over 15kg (33 pounds). Their wingspans (this means the length of both wings) can be almost 3m (10 ft).

Most swans are white. These swan are found in the Northern Hemisphere. This means they are found in Europe, Asia and North America. However, the Black Swan is black with a red beak. It lives in Australia. The Black Necked Swan is white but it has a black neck. It lives in South America. They also have a small area of skin between the eyes and beak that has no feathers. This area can be different colors, such as yellow (for example, on a Bewick's Swan) or orange (for example, on a Mute Swan).

The Coscoroba Swan is different to the other swans. Some scientists think it is more like a duck or a goose. It is the smaller than the other swans. This swan lives in South America.


  • Genus Cygnus
    • Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
      • New Zealand Swan (Cygnus atratus sumnerensis)
    • Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
    • Bewick's Swan (Cygnus bewickii)
    • Whistling Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
    • Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
    • Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus)
    • Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
  • Genus Coscoroba
Look up Cygnus in Wikispecies, a directory of species
Look up Coscoroba in Wikispecies, a directory of species
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