Feeding Swans

In common with advice from the RSPB and The Canals & Rivers Trust, Swan Lifeline does not recommend feeding human food to swans and other wildfowl. This includes bread, pizza bases, cakes, sandwiches which contain butter and meat products as these contain high levels of salt, sugar, fats and other additives.

Bread and other human foods are NOT a substitute for a swan’s natural diet.

Corn, chopped cabbage, spinach, peas and floating specialised swan and duck food pellets are the most suitable foods for the species.

Did you know?
  • Swans are one of the UK's largest and heaviest birds, with a wingspan of up to 2.4 metres.
  • The mute swan can fly at speed of up to 50 miles per hour.
  • The swan has over 25,000 feathers on its body.
  • Swan numbers declined enormously in the 1980’s due to lead poisoning.  Conservation has led to their numbers returning and flourishing.
  • Swans lay between one and 10 eggs. Younger pens tend to lay more. The pair will build their nest and when the eggs are laid, the pen will incubate them with her brood patch until they hatch. She will leave her nest only occasionally for a quick wash and does not eat during this period.
  • A female swan is a pen, a male swan is a cob, a baby swan is a cygnet.
  • When a cygnet hatches it weighs about 250g (Equivalent to a block of butter).
    By the time it is six months old it weighs 6kgs (Equivalent to 2 of bags of potatoes).
    An adult swan can weigh up to 14kgs (Equivalent to a sack of dog food).
  • When cygnets hatch, they are immediately taken into the water and their journey towards adulthood begins.
  • Cygnets stay with their parents until the spring of the following year after hatching. They are forced to leave if they do not do so of their own accord.  They will join a flock where they will stay until they are around three years-old.
  • Cygnets generally find their partners in the flock. They can reproduce from the age of three.
    Swans generally mate for life although in some cases, a cob will have two mates on different nests.  It has been known for swans to die of a broken heart if they lose their partners.
  • The mute swan was first formally described by the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin as Anas olor in 1789, and was transferred by Johann Matthäus Bechstein to the new genus Cygnus in 1803.
  • Swans had their beaks marked to show ownership.
  • Henry VIII was well known for his love of swan as a delicacy.