Be careful of them – vicious things
Can break your arms with beating wings –
And if you venture near their eggs
I’m sure that they could break your legs.
And if they’ve got a Cygnet brood
Don’t try to calm them down with food:
You won’t appease them with your bread
They’ll only peck your heels instead.
They’re always ready for a fight,
Like Al Capone all dressed in white.
Don’t think that this is Donald Duck,
These giant birds don’t give a damn*.
The fearsome reputation of the swan is undeserved and erroneous. I have fed swans from my hand many times, if anything they are more circumspect than ducks or geese – and certainly less likely to take a chunk of flesh than a squirrel. The trick is to let them approach you. Like all birds, they will attempt to protect their nests and chicks – they will make themselves look as big as they can**. Swans, like most birds, have hollow, lightweight bones: their wings will snap much more easily than a human arm. They do have powerful legs though, and clawed feet that you might want to keep out of the way of. We all know how the upper, serene part of a swan’s body is at odds with the maelstrom that is paddling madly below-decks. I think if I was expected to remain impeccably stately at all times, whilst being obliged to paddle like the clappers beneath the water line, I might just get a bit short tempered myself from time to time…
*For those scant few people of the same age as me – like Nausius in ‘Up Pompeii’, I couldn’t think of a rhyme there.
**Q. How big can an angry swan look? A. Very.