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Mute Swan

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A familiar and increasing species of a range of fresh water habitats and ocassionally on saline waters too


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Mute Swan: the symbol of Dorset

Post date: Saturday, 29 November, 2014 - 00:00

Every time I pass along the Wareham to Wool road in winter I am reminded just how well the mute swan (Cygnus olor) is now doing compared to when I started bird watching back in the late 1970's. The lower reaches of the Frome is a magnet for them in winter, especially when the river floods as is does most years. We regularly see over hundred birds on this stretch of the river.

In the early 1980's there was real concern about the dramatically falling numbers of mute swans and research on dead birds showed they were consuming significant numbers of lead pellets from fishing lines which was, unsurprisingly, affecting their ability to breed as well as eventually poisoning them. As soon as this was known fishermen changed from using lead weights and the problem halted almost immediately and we now have a thriving swan population again.

The mute swan for me is, as Chris Packham would say, a top ten bird (along with 25 or so other species!). It must surely be one of our most beautiful birds and they are so serene as they glide along the river. Dorset has a special connection with swans, of course, with the swannery at Abbotsbury home to hundreds of them and with Swanage being named after them. I guess that makes the mute swan our county bird?


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Mute Swan
Scientific Name Cygnus olor
Status Locally frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Swans
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Rivers
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Harbours, estuaries and lagoons
Look for White swans with red bills
Additional Identification Notes
  • Seen in Dorset all year round but numbers do increase dramatically in winter
  • In winter they can often seen in large grazing parties in fields next to rivers
  • Look at the bill, if it is yellow and black and not red check out whooper and Bewick swans 
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