Mute swan

Mute Swan

©Gillian Day

Mute swan

Scientific name: Cygnus olor
One of our most iconic waterbirds, the mute swan is famed for its grace and beauty. It is also considered to be a romantic of the bird world because partners form a perfect love heart with their necks.

Species information


Length: 1.5m
Wingspan: 2.2m
Weight: 9-11.5kg
Average lifespan: 10 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The mute swan is one of the most familiar birds in the UK, its long, curved neck and graceful glide a regular sight on our waterways and waterbodies. Mute swans feed on plants, particularly waterweed. They usually mate for life, but some will have numerous partners.

How to identify

The only common swan in most places, the mute swan is easily recognised by its all-white body and its reddish-orange bill that has a large black 'knob' at the base.


Found throughout town and countryside, on canals, ponds, lakes and rivers across the UK.

Did you know?

A female swan is known as a 'pen' and a male is a 'cob'. Both males and females are involved in parenting; the cob will guard the nest while the pen leaves to feed, but will not incubate the eggs. Both parents are devoted to the cygnets, which, with their downy, brown fluff and short necks, do indeed look like the 'ugly duckling' of the rhyme! However, they soon grow into their adult plumage.


Mute Swans by Tom Hibbert