Every week in July and August we are encouraging you to get outside in Fermanagh and discover a local species! This week for our ‘Find it in Fermanagh’ series we want to learn more about the swans of Fermanagh!
Swans are a common sight on both Upper and Lower Lough Erne. In July and August pairs of swans can be seen looking after their young, known as Cygnets. These are Mute swans and are present on the Lough all year round, and have a distinctive orange bill, which differentiates them from the slightly larger Whooper Swan.
Whooper Swans are migratory birds which are encountered during the winter months whilst here from Iceland. They have distinctive yellow marking on their black bill.
Swans are specially protected at all times under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 and are listed in the EU Birds Directive as a species which must be the subject of special conservation measures. Swans feed on water plants, insects, snails etc. and a group of swans is called a “ballet”.
At this time of year Cygnets are still with their parents. Cygnets are born in June and appear short-necked and thickly downed in grey, think of the Ugly Duckling! They are capable of running and swimming a few hours after hatching however they are carefully looked after for several months by their parents. Swans pair for the duration of their lives which is normally around 20 years in the wild. Immature birds wear mottled grey or brown plumage for two years before maturing into beautiful white birds in their third year.
Swans and cygnets can be seen at:
Whilst you are out why not send us some of your photos of swans in Lough Erne! Post on any of our social media channels with the hashtag #lelpfinditinfermanagh.
Swans are very territorial and defensive of their cygnets and breeding areas. A loud hiss can be heard as a warning to scare off intruders. It is important not to get to close to them, and all dogs should be kept on a lead in their presence to avoid chasing or distressing swans.
Swans eat aquatic vegetation and molluscs which cling to the vegetation. They also eat small fish, frogs, worms and graze big grassy fields. Swans normally find enough food in the wild without supplementary feeding. Grain, such as wheat, and vegetable matter, especially lettuce and potatoes, can be fed to swans. Food should be thrown into the water to avoid encouraging the birds onto the bank. Many people like feeding bread to swans, but when it’s fed in large quantities, it can cause dietary problems, and is no substitute for the proper diet that the birds themselves will seek out.
Visit the RSPB website to find out more about swans and their feeding habits. https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/mute-swan/feeding/
For further information on swans of Lough Erne and locations to spot them click here.