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Territorial Behaviors & Boundaries of The Swans in Western Pond Research Questions How far does the territory of the mute swans in Western Pond extend beyond the perimeter of the pond? How do they react to different stimulus in their environment? Purpose

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territorial behaviors boundaries of
Territorial Behaviors & Boundariesof
  • The Swans in Western Pond
research questions
Research Questions
  • How far does the territory of the mute swans in Western Pond extend beyond the perimeter of the pond?
  • How do they react to different stimulus in their environment?
  • Our goal for this project is to help the students at Miami University better understand the swans. This way they will be able to enjoy the swans safely and happily.
  • The territory of the swans does not extend past:
    • The banks of the pond
    • The road
    • The bridge on the West bank
    • The trees on the South bank
  • The swans will be seen by the North and East banks most often.
      • These banks are sunny and the farthest away from cars and pedestrians.
  • When we approach the pond we expect the swans to come over to us and beg for food.
      • They are used to being fed by the grounds keepers and the students of Miami University.
  • The swans will probably show threatening displays if we approach them within three feet on land.
      • The male will arch his neck, spread his feathers, and make hissing noises
what do you plan to accomplish
What Do You Plan To Accomplish?
  • Through our research we hope to illustrate that swans are usually not aggressive unless they are provoked or feel threatened.
  • Our plan is to relieve some of the fear that people have towards these birds, and show that they are beautiful, and interesting creatures.
mute swans
Mute Swans
  • Species: Cygnus olors (Ivory, 2002)
  • "are the most common swans in the wild," (Reily, 1968)
  • "This huge swan is one of the heaviest flying birds" (Wikipedia, 2004)
  • The swan is a majestic waterfowl, "recognized as a symbol of elegance and grace in myth and legend" (Mackenzie 1988).
    • Artists such as the famous musician Tchaikovsky (ballet Swan Lake) have immortalized their beauty.
  • Swans are believed to descend from domesticated birds of the medieval era.
    • Swans were originally bred for their meat in European nations.
  • There are arguably- seven different species of swan" (Mackenzie, 1988).
  • White plumage
  • Black webbed feet
  • Red-orange bill
  • Black knob of skin where the bill connects to the head
appearance continued
…Appearance Continued

The wingspan of the Mute Swan is between 2 and 2.5 meters long. Its' height ranges from 144 to one 158 centimeters.

"The two sexes are alike in appearance, except that males are generally larger than females" (Reily, 1968; Terres, 1980)

what do baby mute swans look like
What do baby mute swans look like?
  • Baby Mute Swans are "called 'cygnets'" and their coloration is "brown rather than white, and lack the bright red bill" (Wikipedia, 2004).
  • While in the juvenile stage, some brown feathers are still present and the bills are less colorful.
  • Mute Swans stay in the juvenile stage until about one year of age.
  • Mute Swans "live in well-sheltered bays, open marshes, lakes and ponds" (Reily, 1968; Terres, 1980).
  • Any body of water that has shallow areas with sufficient food sources for raising cygnets is a suitable habitat for Mute Swans.
  • Mute Swans prefer lakes or ponds that contain small islands suspended by the water.
    • They use these islands, or shallow banks, to build their nests, because these locations are easier to protect from predacious land mammals.
  • This species is adaptive to new environments.
where are mute swans from
Where Are Mute Swans From?
  • The Mute Swan is found naturally "in temperate areas of Europe and Western Asia," but numbers in North America are rising steadily since its introduction.
  • Mute Swans appeared in North America after being released, for ornamental purposes during the nineteenth century, in the Hudson Valley "as a park bird" (Johnsgard, 1975).
  • since Mute Swans are reproducing so well in North American habitats, they are competing with some of the native species of waterfowl for food and territory. "This bird is very aggressive, and has been known to drive off such stubborn and similarly sized species as Canadian Geese and Trumpeter Swans" (Granlund, McPeek, and Adams, 1994). Some wildlife managers consider Mute Swans an invasive species and are making attempts to control the spread of their population in North America to protect the integrity of some of the native species of birds.
diet and eating habits
Diet and Eating Habits
  • Aquatic vegetation
    • Pondweeds
    • musk grass
    • eelgrass
    • green algae
  • Aquatic insects
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Mollusks on rare occasions
  • Waste grain or other terrestrial grasses
  • Unlike other waterfowl, species of swans do not dive; they have evolved long necks that they use for grazing on submerged plants under water.
    • "Mute swans can reach underwater foods up to 50 centimeters below the surface by upending," (Johnsgard, 1975).
    • Mute Swans spend a large portion of every day grazing, and ”adults eat an average of 8.4 pounds of vegetation per day" (Johnsgard, 1975).
    • In the winter, swans in captivity are feed a good quantity of grains, "but lack of green food results in inferior condition and poor breeding" (Johnsgrad, 1975).
      • Therefore, captive swans are fed lettuce, grass, and other weeds when there are no other plants alive.
  • One of the only species that have long-term monogamous relationships
  • In a study by Clive Minton of continuous partnerships of Mute Swans, in 1968, he found that only 52 divorce events occurred in 492 pairs of Mute Swans.
    • This is a 10.6% divorce rate, 42% of which occurred because of severe weather circumstance (Minton, 1968).
  • These long-term relationships have expressed great success in procreation and viability of offspring.
    • This monogamous style of mating is one of the primary reasons for the increasing number of Mute Swans in North American habitats.
sexual behavior
Sexual Behavior
  • To begin the mating ritual, both the male and female swans conduct a series of threat postures, followed by "mutual calling while Chin-Lifting" (Johnsgard, 1975).
  • There behavioral movements become synchronized in Head-dipping, preening, and up-ending.
  • During the ritual "the wings are held very low, often dragging in the water" (Johnsgard, 1975).
  • Eventually, the male "gradually pushes his neck and body over the female, and after treading the birds call and rise partially out of the water," (Johnsgard, 1975).
    • This is the portion of the mating ritual that is quite fascinating, because both swans actually look like they are attempting to dance on top of the water.
    • As the final stage of this dance the pair, "lowers their bills and turns their heads in unison from side to side, gradually subsiding into the water" (Johnsgard, 1975).
berthe morisot s summer s day 1879
Berthe Morisot's Summer’s Day (1879)
  • Symbolism:
    • The Mute Swan has been honored by Western Asia as a symbol of everlasting love.
      • They are considered romantic birds because they are beautiful and graceful creatures, and almost always seen in male/female pairs.
  • Literature:
    • Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling".
    • Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax."
      • The Swomee-Swans play a vital role in this book. "My poor Swomee-Swans...why they can't sing a not! No one can sing who has smog in his throat."
experimental design
Experimental Design
  • On a daily basis we will go down to the pond to record data on the swans.
    • We will take qualitative data in the location portion on our data sheet, using the sections of the banks that we have marked on our map.
    • The averages from our data will be made into maps and graphs.
  • We will experiment with walking up to the swans. We will test how close we can approach, while the swans feel comfortable. When we walk up to them we will watch to see if they stop what they are doing.
    • When we approach the swans we will find out about how territorial and aggressive they are.
  • Another experiment will be the “mirror test.” We will place a mirror near the pond, and watch the reactions the swans have.
    • The experiment with the mirror will show us how the swans react to predators and other birds.
  • Our experimental techniques are designed to answer our research questions completely. Our data sheet and graphs will tell us the boundaries of the swan’s territory and where they spend the most time.
materials and methods
Materials and Methods
  • Digital camera (w\ audio recording capabilities):
    • to take pictures of the swans and their habitat.
    • We will also collect samples of the sounds that the swans make.
  • Scanner:
    • to copy maps and pictures onto computer
  • Maps of Miami University (Including Western Pond)
  • Photoshop:
    • to create maps and crop pictures
  • Data sheet
  • imovie program:
    • to record experiments
  • Laptop:
    • to use imovie and Photoshop
class participation
Class Participation
  • We are asking the class to go over to the pond at least four times during this semester to record data for our group.
    • We will add the information we receive from our classmates into our group data sheet to acquire a broader amount of statistical data for our graphs.
  • If you have not finished filling out your data sheet it would be helpful if you would make your visits to the pond in the morning.