Wednesday, 19 January 2011


This morning, two swans started fighting outside my boat. I'm a hands-off person when it comes to wildlife, thinking we humans do so much damage when we interfere, but it was a really upsetting sight to see these beautiful birds trying to kill each other. I admit I did try to distract them with food and clapping hands, but they were oblivious to everything else. There's the constant beating of wings on the other's body while biting the neck, then the stronger one tries to drown the other by holding its head under water with beak and wing. It went on for about 40 minutes until they drifted out of sight around a bend in the canal, one being held under for longer and longer periods and flapping more feebly.
I told myself that perhaps they have to fight to the death to avoid the huge energy drain from frequent battles. Perhaps a single death can establish the male's dominance for it's lifetime, ensuring that famous monogamy and protective parenting among swans. There will be a good evolutionary reason for these deaths (unlike so many perpetrated by humans), but it's still very hard to witness.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie

It is very hard to watch - I find it very hard not to interfere with baby birds in the garden when I know that they're destined to be cat food.

I was thinking about Tennyson's line "nature red in tooth and claw" when I came across this stanza about mother nature:

"So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;"

Which is just as you said....

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

Jo (Coalwoman) said...

Hi Carrie. That photo is fantastic.

It is very upsetting to watch any thing fighting, but Swans more so because they are such majestic birds. We watched as a pair of Swans tried to drown another Swan when we were moored at Tixel Wide a few years ago. There was nothing we could do, because it was happening across the other side of the wide. After a lot of flapping of wings and pushing of the single Swan under the water, it eventually made it into a field and wandered off out of harms way. More often than not a Swan will back down and escape thankfully, but it is awful to witness.

Jo (The coalwoman)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, hi Jo - thanks for your comments. It's true, harsh as it is, we have to leave well alone. Hope the losing swan did escape around the bend!