Ask the Swan Specialist

Incest in swans?
Date: 22 May 2017

I have been looking after a pair of wild mute swans for 8 years and my female died in March. I think she was getting old and had become very weak. She and her mate raised 5 cygnets the first year they were together and one the next season but the next two seasons she left the nest a few days before they were due to hatch. Last year she laid 3 very malformed eggs whereas she had laid 7 the last 5 years. Which is why I think she was older than I had thought.

The question I have is this. Oran the male has been away for weeks and then back off and on but on Friday when he came back a female came to find him. When I went out, I feed them wheat in the mornings with my RSPB mans' approval, to get her used to seeing me, she got out of the water and came right up to me. When I looked at her nostril pattern, all my swans have different ones, it was identical to one of the first cygnets and it seemed as though she knew me, and I felt as though I knew her. Is it possible that a male swan would know if a female was his daughter, and if they do pair up will there be problems with their cygnets? I have never thought about incest in the bird world before! It intrigues me! Can you cast any light on this?

Hoping you can enlighten me!


Isle of Mull, Scotland

Messages In This Thread

Incest in swans? -- Ruth -- 22 May 2017
Re: Incest in swans? -- The Regal Swan -- 22 May 2017