Male swan 'adopts' eggs at Abbotsbury Swannery

First cygnet at Abbotsbury The hatching of the first cygnet is traditionally taken as the start of summer

Related Stories

A male swan at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset has "adopted" the eggs of a female whose mate had died.

Swanherds said it was "highly unusual" for a cob not to to kill young that are not his own.

The first of hundreds of cygnets have begun hatching at the swannery, the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world.

It was established in the 11th Century, when Benedictine monks began farming the birds for their banquets.

'Very odd'

The pen (female swan) recently lost her mate when it was killed in a territorial dispute.

Swanherds put up a fence to protect her nest but another neighbouring cob swam downstream and has adopted her eggs as his own.

Deputy Swanherd Steve Groves said he had not seen such "very odd" behaviour in 25 years of working on the lagoon near Chesil Beach.

The mute swan

  • Cygnus olor
  • Native to Europe and Asia
  • Introduced to North America, southern Africa and Australia
  • The name derives from it being less vocal than other species
  • By tradition, all unmarked mute swans on the River Thames belong to the monarch
  • They are often found on ponds and rivers in parks and other urban areas

"This seems to go against what scientists call the 'selfish gene', where you would expect a cob to kill young that don't belong to him," he said.

"Staying true to the old adage that swans mate for life, we believe she will stay paired with him and next year he will be able to father his own cygnets with her."

The eggs are expected to hatch overnight.

About 100 breeding pairs of swans at Abbotsbury Swannery have produced about 500 eggs.

The hatching of the first cygnet is traditionally taken as a sign that summer has arrived.

This year first cygnet was born early on 16 May, while in 2012 the first one was born at the end of April.

More on This Story

Related Stories

From other news sites

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Dorset

Weather

Bournemouth

28 °C 17 °C

Features & Analysis

  • Dr Mahinder Watsa Dr Sex

    The wisecracking 90-year-old whose advice column is a cult hit


  • Payton McKinnonKilling heat

    Why so many American children die in hot cars


  • Vice-President Joe Biden.President Biden?

    Struggling in the shadow of a potential Hillary Clinton campaign


  • USA fanSoccer punch

    Has the US finally fallen in love with the beautiful game? BBC Sport


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Kyoto.Falling for Kyoto

    Acclaimed writer Pico Iyer describes an enchanting first stroll through the city

Programmes

  • (File photo) Usain BoltClick Watch

    Challenging the world's fastest man to a virtual race over 40m – can you keep up?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.