TRR photo by Amanda Reed

A swan in the Big Eddy 

People have noticed a swan floating around on the river near the Narrowsburg Bridge lately. Though the feathered loner seems an unusual sight in the Catskills in January, it’s not, say conservation experts.

“This bird isn’t a rarity. [It’s] like the Mandarin duck in NYC,” said Jillian Liner, director of conservation with the Audubon Society. “They can be found across the region.”

Linder confirmed that this is a mute swan, a bird whose population has been increasing so much that it’s been considered an invasive species, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The mute swan is more common in the lower Hudson Valley, around New York City, in counties including Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and the lower part of Orange.

NYSDEC released the third draft of its management plan for mute swans in New York State in 2017, which included plans to balance the existence of feral mute swans in the wild, while preventing more population growth. The plan also supported efforts by the Department of Conservation to prevent or alleviate site-specific conflicts between mute swans and public or private property owners or outdoor enthusiasts. That plan prioritized non-lethal management techniques to control the species and encouraged education and outreach as management—in other words, warning people that these swans are beautiful, but not to be messed with.

Mute swans are not native to the area. They were introduced to the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island from Europe originally, kept by breeders and as domestic pets on ponds. Later on, those swans were released into the wild near Long Island and the lower Husdon Valley. Today, the population in New York is estimated to be somewhere around 2,200.

You’ll most likely see this swan feeding in the river, ducking its head below the water to clutch plant material like seeds and stems. Mute swans also occasionally eat insects, snails, worms, tadpoles and small fish. Look online for a video of the swan feeding.

 

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