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Swans, The Birds

For all of you inquiring minds, especially children.

by Gilles d'Aymery



I frequently receive inquiries by e-mail regarding Swans, the birds. Most often, the queries come from pupils. They ask questions about the name of a mother Swan, the baby Swan, a group of Swans, and they invariably ask for pictures.

I presume -- without assuming -- that they have some kind of homework to do for their next class; so, I constantly endeavor to answer each and every one of these e-mails. Why they end up on Swans is pretty easy to figure out. They get to the computer, hop on the Net and do a search on, guess what, Swans. Since we have about 1,000 pages (and counting), each with the word Swans in the URL, they land on the site, can't fathom what all this wordy gibberish is about, find the "contact" link and shoot a quick e-mail to your servitor. Quite possibly, their teachers failed to let them know that Swans was also known as Cygnus. How many of those teachers ever studied Latin? Your guess is as good as mine...

Anyway, in the spirit of the holidays and in the hope that I can answer all these questions for good (so that I need not repeat myself time and again), here it goes, with my very best wishes to all.


The mother of a swan (female) is called a pen.

The father of a swan (male) is called a cob.

Young swans are called cygnets.

A swan's beak is called a bill. Please check http://www.taiga.net/swans/head_and_bill.html to learn about the different bills swans have.

A group of swans is generally and generically called a flock of swans; but, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the correct appellation is a wedge of Swans (when they are flying in a "V" formation). I've also heard of a bevy of Swans but I am not certain this is correct. A bevy usually refers to a group of larks or quails. So, I am afraid that I can't bring a definite answer on this one. Here, on the Swans Commentary Web site, we refer to the flock; that is, the collective of writers and essayists who generously contribute their work on a bi-weekly basis. Anyway, for those of you who wish to learn more about Group Names of Birds, please visit http://baltimorebirdclub.org/gnlist.html; and you can also check out James Lipton's An Exaltation of Larks from your Public Library. Lipton describes in great details these collective nouns that have embellished the English language for centuries.

So far as I was able to figure out in my short research there are seven different kinds of swans: The Black Swan; the Black-necked Swan; the Coscoroba Swan; the Mute Swan; the Tundra Swan; the Trumpeter Swan; and the Whooper Swan. More on them below. (I too am a Swan, albeit of a distinctive genre!)

I am sorry if I cannot provide you with pictures of swans. Our site is not geared toward this function. We do have one though, and I am more than happy to show it to you.


Picture of a landing Swan - Courtesy of Judy Swan, Swan Photography, Palm City, Florida. © 2002 Judy Swan, swanfoto@atlantic.net

This picture was graciously given to us by its photographer whose name is Judy Swan. Judy lives in Florida. Her photograph is copyrighted; so, I have to ask you not to steal it. However, you can contact her directly and I am sure she will be most kind and allow you to use it for your school project. Her e-mail address is swanfoto@atlantic.net. By the way, her photo features a Mute Swan...

More information about the birds

You may want to learn more about these gorgeous birds and see myriad pictures (always ask permission if you want to use the material displayed on the respective sites). So I have compiled a few links that you should feel free, and hopefully eager, to peruse and explore.

Information about specific Swans:

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus):
Search Google on Black Swans

Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melanocorypha)
Search Google on Black-necked Swans

Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba)
Search Google on Coscoroba Swan

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
The history of Mute Swans in England (River Thames)
Search Google on Mute Swans

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
Search Google on Tundra Swans

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
Search Google on Trumpeter Swans

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Search Google on Whooper Swans

More general information

Swans at a Glance
The Trumpeter Swan Society (on Trumpeter, Tundra and Mute Swans)
Search Google on all Swans (cygnus)

Swan Mythology
Greek Mythology and Swans

The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen (1838)
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen (1844)
Hans Christian Andersen and Swans

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Swan Lake

And of course, when you want to read out-of-the-box ideas, when you are ready to dream and invent the future, we will be honored to have you visit us at Swans Commentary!

I hope this will be of good help to you all. Remember, when the time comes and someone else asks for your help, that once upon a time you too were helped...


Published December 2, 2002
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