Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Key facts

Scientific name: Cygnus olor

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 5,800-7,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 79,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 125 – 170 cm

Wingspan: 200 – 240 cm

Weight: 10 – 12 kg


Mute swans are white at maturity although their feathers are often stained orange-brown by iron and tannins in the water. They have orange bills that are bordered with black and a knob on top of the bill.

Cygnets range from pure white to grey; white cygnets have a leucistic gene, and their bills are greyish-black.


Mute swans make their large mounded nests from dried grasses, sticks and rushes lined with softer materials such as down.

Mute swans lay an average of 4 eggs between late April and early May which they incubate for 35-41 days. The eggs are blue-green when laid which turn white and then brown. Cygnets learn to fly at 120 to 150 days old.


Mute swans feed on a wide range of vegetation, both submerged aquatic plants and seeds and grain they may find on land.

They will occasionally eat small animals such as fish, frogs, molluscs and worms.

Mute Swan

Where to see them

Mute swans breed across most of the UK except for Northern Scotland, mid-Wales and the moors of south-west England. You will find them anywhere there is a shallow lake or slow-flowing rivers including in urban areas.


Jerome Fischer/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Despite their name, mute swans will make a hissing noise when threatened, and when they fly their wings produce a whistling sound which can be heard up to a mile away.

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