Mute swans’ rare visit to Malta

This video from Malta says about itself:

Mute Swans in Gozo

4 January 2017

Since the beginning of the New Year hundreds of people have visited Marsalforn Valley to see the 12 Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) which have been resting and feeding in the artificial reservoir since Monday.

The four adult and eight juvenile Mute Swans (Ċinji in Maltese) probably landed in Gozo because of the cold weather in Europe seeking warmer surroundings. Earlier today some of them flew off, only to return to the area an hour later.

The Mute Swan is native to much of Europe and Asia, and (as a rare winter visitor) the far north of Africa. The name ‘mute’ derives from it being less vocal than other swan species. Measuring 125 to 170 centimetres in length, this large swan is wholly white in plumage with an orange bill bordered with black. It is recognisable by its pronounced knob atop the bill. Mute Swans nest on large mounds that they build with waterside vegetation in shallow water on islands in the middle or at the very edge of a lake. They are monogamous and often reuse the same nest each year, restoring or rebuilding it as needed.

Although the Mute Swan‘s status is ‘very rare’, some of these birds are recorded in the Maltese Islands from time to time in winter (mostly December and January), especially when it is a really cold winter in Europe. Some records are of small flocks.

The birds are being constantly monitored by the Gozo Police and by members of the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit (ALE).

People are urged not to get too close to the birds to take pictures and close-ups, and not to disturb the swans in any other way, especially by throwing pebbles and stones into the water to attract their attention.

This video from Malta says about itself:

7 January 2017

Here is the latest footage taken by BirdLife Malta of the 12 Mute Swans currently in Gozo. The swans – 4 adults and 8 juveniles – have been resting and feeding at Marsalforn Valley since the first day of 2017 and have attracted hundreds of people to the area to take pictures of this rare sight.

Throughout the week BirdLife Malta urged the general public not to feed the Mute Swans and not to throw bread to the birds as this would do them more harm than good, causing them irreparable damage in the long run even though it may seem harmless. Most bread is essentially junk food for these birds, with white bread being the worst as it can cause them a range of problems, including a debilitating disease rendering them unable to fly.

After discussions with the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), later in the week, BirdLife Malta began giving the appropriate food to the birds in the reservoir – a fodder mix of legumes and cereals (ġwież).

From BirdLife:

Mute Swans make the Maltese headlines

By Jessica Irwin, 1 Feb 2017

Jessica Irwin (BirdLife Malta) fills us in on the latest ‘celebrity’ sensation to grip Malta – a flock of Mute Swans that have sought refuge from the recent cold snap in the shelter of Marsalforn Valley.

As the first dawn of 2017 broke across the Maltese Islands, who could have guessed that a flock of unexpected visitors were already on their way? The next day, they were spotted in Gozo’s Marsalforn Valley, unleashing a frenzy of excitement amongst locals. As news quickly spread, it suddenly seemed like everyone in Malta wanted to catch a glimpse of these rare guests – a small flock of majestic Mute Swans!

Although common across most of Europe, these waterbirds are a rare sight in these parts. But with the recent cold snap across much of the continent, it is likely that this group of four adults and eight juveniles sought the refuge of warmer surroundings. With their slender white necks, striking orange bills and graceful presence, it’s easy to see how these elegant creatures have captured the imaginations of so many, from fairy-tales to Tchaikovsky and now the people of Malta. Within days, the swans had become local celebrities, with thousands visiting the valley to see them – they even dominated the national news for the first week of the New Year.

Of course, amidst the hype, many visitors were keen to feed the birds and BirdLife Malta made calls, urging the public to watch from a safe distance and avoid feeding them white bread (which can cause irreparable harm). After a few days, the overwhelming attention began to take its toll on several of the juveniles that appeared weak from a combination of stress and lack of adequate food. Mute Swans have enormous appetites and have been noted to eat up to eight pounds of aquatic plants per day, so a proper feeding protocol was necessary to give the swans the fuel they needed to continue on their migration.

With the help of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, we began feeding the birds a combination of legumes and cereals to help them regain their strength. At this point, BirdLife Malta also reached out to the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) and to the Kaċċaturi San Ubertu (KSU) in the hopes of collaborating on the feeding effort and finding common ground for the benefit of wildlife and nature.After much deliberation, it was agreed that, in the best interests of the birds and their wellbeing, a collaborative effort was important. Since then, we have all worked together to ensure regular feeding and the FKNK has even helped secure a sponsor for most of the food.

While BirdLife Malta may not always see eye to eye with hunting groups, our recent joint efforts shows that collaboration is possible. The Mute Swans have cast a magical spell over Malta, uniting two opposing forces and many thousands of people together behind nature. We hope they leave this magic behind when they continue on their journey.

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