20 things you need to know about Wiltshire's popular swans

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Some of the yet-to-be-named cygnets at Caen Hill locks, Devizes, with their parents Some of the yet-to-be-named cygnets at Caen Hill locks, Devizes, with their parents

As the call goes out to help name the five cygnets at Caen Hill locks, Devizes, and the nesting swans at Bradford on Avon town bridge attract attention we bring you 20 facts about swans... 

1: Swans, their nests and eggs are legally protected and it is an offence for anyone to interfere with a swan or intentionally injure, take or kill a wild swan.

2: There are three species of swan in the UK, but only the mute swan breeds here, the other two just over winter on these shores

3: The collective name for a group of swans is a bevy or lamentation

4: The belief that they mate for life is unfounded – they have an average of four mates during their lifetimes

5: The rumour of royal ownership also enhances the swan’s regal bearing. In truth, the Queen only claims ownership of some unmarked swans on certain stretches of the Thames

6: Swans form strong emotional bonds when they do their pair up, and both parents play a role in guarding and bringing up their offspring

7: Young cygnets leave the nest after just two days and follow their parents to the water

8: Female swans are called pens and males are known as cobs

9: Swans weigh up to 12kg and take off by running across the water as fast as they can with their wings flapping.

10: Once airborne, swans can reach speeds of up to 55mph. 

11: The V-shaped formation adopted by swans flying in groups is called a ‘wedge’. 

12: Swans often reuse the same nest each year, restoring it or rebuilding it as needed.

13: A swan's wing could break your arm, if you are a child or elderly, but it's almost unheard of, says the www.theswansanctuary.org.uk

14: Swans living on fresh water will typically eat pondweed, stonewort and wigeon grass, as well as tadpoles and insects such as milfoil.

15: If you want to feed swans then give them fresh bread - mould is poisonous to them - grain such as wheat or corn, and fresh greens such as lettuce or spinach. The food should be thrown onto the water so that they can swallow water with the food.

16: After the nest has been built, which usually takes two to three weeks, the egg laying process begins with an egg being laid every 12-24 hours.

17: Once all the eggs have been laid, which can take two to three weeks, they will all be incubated at the same time with hatching usually six weeks later.

18: New-born cygnets are mainly lost to crows, herons, magpies, turtles, pike and large perch. Both cygnets and full-grown swans are also the prey of foxes and mink.

19: If the nesting female or male bird has disappeared, or been killed, the other is quite capable of rearing the cygnets alone.

20: Swans hatch up to ten eggs at a time with the expectation of losing several. It is not uncommon for all cygnets to be lost to predators or for most of them to survive. As the parents grow older they learn from the experience of previous years.

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