More about Swans in Crystal Cove and Lewis Lake and What to Feed, and not, Feed Them

Marilyn Regan Photo by Nigel Cohen on Unsplash

The swans continue to grace nearby Lewis Lake and Crystal Cove with their presence.

They glide smoothly across the water companionable with ducks, adding to the scenery as Spring begins, the birds sing, and buds blossom on the trees. 

Interestingly, although there are different species with specific physical characteristics, they have several things in common.

For one, all swans are herbivores, meaning their anatomy and physiology are designed by nature to digest plant material. Their bills are strong, designed to grind and mash.

And that’s another reason to keep your distance; they can give you a good bite and probably remove a pound of flesh. Do not underestimate their strength or forget that they are wild birds. With an attitude.

Swans have small stomachs and must frequently eat to keep their body weight to 20–27 pounds, though they do not overeat. Their long necks allow them to forage deeper under the water than other birds. When you see a headless swan with its butt protruding, this is exactly what it is doing. 

Interestingly enough, although swans live in fresh water and must consume ample amounts, they can also consume saltwater. 

A gland located above their eyes and under the skin removes the salt from their bloodstream. The salt is then concentrated into a solution that is excreted through its eyes. The swan simply shakes its head to remove it.

What kinds of swans are they?

There are three types of swans in North America.

First, there’s the Trumpeter Swan, identified through their solid black bills extending to their eyes and a red “lipstick” like mark where the upper and lower bills meet.

Second, the Tundra Swan with yellow markings below the eyes, concave bills, and a scooped shape. They were formerly called Whistling Swans and are smaller than the Trumpeter.

And last but not least, the Mute Swan, identified by their orange bills and the knob on the head, typically on the male. This is the swan that has graced Crystal Cove and Lewis Lake for the past several years.

Their numbers have increased significantly over the past few months. But swans are not communal; they are territorial. Far from the one lone swan welcoming the others' company, I have witnessed it chasing the others off.

The sound of their large wings flapping echoes over the Cove, making a sound akin to that of laundry blowing and snapping in the breeze. This is evident when the swan rises above the water, spreading its wings, seeming to balance on its tale, e.g, “in display,” much like a peacock spreading its tail. 

And in case you are wondering, yes, they can fly. It’s easy to identify them in the air due to their long necks.

The landing is a bit bumpy due to its large size, however.

Feeding Swans

Swans eat exclusively on the water and should not be encouraged to leave it for their safety.

There is ample food in the water, and in Crystal Cove's waters, they have access to fish and worms. As Spring turns to summer, small insects will appear as well.

The swans travel between the Cove and Lewis Lake, where they ingest frogs. 

If you enjoy adding to their culinary needs, there are some foods they should not ingest. 

Do not feed swans:

Bread — their digestive tracts are not equipped to handle flour and refined sugar. This is especially true of young swans whose legs can’t support them should they grow too fast.

And never give a swan, or any other living creature, moldy bread.

Chocolate — causes poisoning.

Apples — due to toxins and pesticides.

Onions — cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress. 

Avocadoes, mushrooms, tomato leaves, dried beans, or anything with salt should never be fed to a swan.

We cannot eat what they eat, and they cannot eat a lot of the foods we eat, so please practice discretion if you feed them. 

Swans can eat:

Swans can eat carrots, celery, and spinach.

They also like potatoes and field vegetation.

Remember, they are herbivores, and their diet in the wild consists mainly of vegetation, meaning greens and vegetables. 

Although they don’t normally eat it as there is none in nature, but lettuce is an acquired taste, and over time, they may eat it.

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The swans do not need us to feed them to survive. If they do not find what they need in nearby Lewis Lake or Crystal Cove, they will venture out into Boston Harbor. 

Many neighbors have objected to some of the kind-hearted souls indulging the swans with daily treats, afraid that they will again occupy the beach and claim it as their own. 

During this difficult time, it is good to have a hobby and to gaze at these graceful creatures. But yes, they are aggressive. So come the summer, it might be better to stop feeding them. 

They’ll get the hint.

Swans are survivors. And they’ll come back!

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Marilyn is a writer, yogi, spiritual medium and animal lover. She is a Bostonian in every sense and has the accent to prove it. She loves the ocean, the outdoors, wine, and sleeping in. She days what she means and doesn't waste words. Finally, she is mother to one son, two cats and has three grandchildren.


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