Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mute Swan, Musselburgh, Scotland, September 2002 - click for larger image

Scotland

The Mute Swan is originally from Europe and Central Asia as far as China but there are feral populations that have spread to most places with a temperate climate. Despite its origins it seems to be more closely related to Southern Hemisphere swans such as the Black Swan, Cygnus atratus and the Black-necked Swan, C. melanocorypha than the other Northern Hemisphere swans such as the Trumpeter, C. buccinator, the Whooper, C. cygnus and the Tundra Swan, C. columbianus.

Mute Swan, Duddingston Loch, Scotland, September 1999 - click for larger image They are very large and powerful birds. When the males have territorial fights they can be quite terrifying as each tries to seize the others head and hold it under water.

The Mute Swan has become semi-domesticated in many places mainly for decoration but, particularly in the past, as a luxury food.

Mute Swan, St. Abbs, Borders, Scotland, June 2002 - click for larger image About July or August on the Thames in England, there is a ceremony called "swan-upping". In this, the cygnets are marked by a nick in the bill to indicate whether they are "owned" by the Dyers' Company (one nick) or the Vintner's Company (two nicks). These Companies are the remnants of the old medieval guilds of the City of London.
Mute Swan, Duddingston Loch, Edinburgh, Scotland, September 1999 - click for larger image

Any unmarked birds on the Thames "belong" to the Queen. We have such quaint, irrelevant institutions in Britain!

Mute Swan, Musselburgh, Scotland, November 2002 - click for larger image
Juvenile Mute Swan, Musselburgh, Scotland, November 2002 - click for larger image
Juvenile Mute Swan, Musselburgh, Scotland, November 2002 - click for larger image
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