Monday, 4 January 2021

Ice-breaking Mute Swan

The ponds and lakes in town are all covered on ice after the last frosts. The other day I watched as part of a family of swans landed on ice on their lake, the young walking tentatively on the slippery ice. Today a pair of swans reached the edge of the ice and the cob seemed determined to move on. It pushed its chest onto the ice and broke it, moving forward each time. I noticed how after each break, it did a tail shake, as they often do after landing. I wonder if the swan feels like it is in unchartered territory and is nervous while breaking the ice. Tail shaking is something waterfowl do after an exciting event (mating, landing). The cob fed under where the ice had been, but then it decided to turn round to its partner.

Cob mute swan ice breaking.

Often lakes that have swans have some open water, as the large, heavy swans are able to break the ice. If they can't and the lake becomes fully iced over, then all waterfowl leaves in search of some open water. 

These are some photos of a mute swan family in a different lake.
Initially one of the young was on its own.

Its family had landed on the other side of the lake, on the ice, and it flew towards them.
The young was then keen to return to the open water.
The pen was happy to stop to preen and rest on the ice.


  1. Thanks for another interesting post. I've seen a Mute Swan breaking ice faster and less hesitantly than this -- see video
    here. Perhaps they get used to it with a bit of practice.

  2. Thank you Ralph, great video! Yes, your icebreaking swan also did the tail wag at the end, but was much more determined. As you say, it may depend on experience.