WARSAW — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is reminding residents that mute swans are an invasive species that have become established in large numbers on many bodies of water in the state.
They cause damage to aquatic and wetland ecosystems and can get aggressive with people, pets and native wildlife.
Many people are unaware of the problems mute swans can cause because they are drawn to the beauty of these large birds. The mute swan is native in much of Eurasia. They began migrating to the U.S. in the late 19th century. They now occupy a large part of the country with the largest populations found near the Great Lakes region and the Atlantic coast
They may be kept as pets, bred in captivity and sold without a permit from the DNR but must be made flightless and kept in an enclosure that prevents them from escaping.
Characteristics of the mute swan:
- Weight: Up to 26 pounds for males and 21 pounds for females, which ranks as the second largest waterfowl species behind trumpeter swans.
- Wingspan: 7-8 feet.
- Lifespan: Usually less than 10 years in the wild and up to 30 years or more in captivity.
- Flight speed: 50-55mph.
- Range: Native throughout much of Eurasia. Introduced into the United States.
- Habitats: Lakes, rivers, farm ponds, wetlands, and coastal estuaries.
- Foods: Primarily vegetation but occasionally small invertebrates and vertebrates.
These swans are the most abundant of the three kinds of swans found in Indiana and can be seen year-round except for in the harshest of winter weather. The easiest way to differentiate a mute swan from the rest are by their orange beaks with black around their eyes; the other two have all black beaks.
An adult mute swan can consume up to eight pounds of aquatic and wetland vegetation per day. They also uproot significantly more vegetation than they eat. These disturbances have a serious impact on water quality, aquatic habitats and wetland functions.
One of the most aggressive waterfowl species, they are known to injure, displace and even kill native birds and other waterfowl. They have also been known to knock people off of their boats and, in some cases, even drown them.
Because they are not native to the U.S., federal protection for mute swans under the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act was removed in 2004. They are still regulated in Indiana and a permit is required to disturb eggs or capture a swan unless it is on property that you own or lease.