Swans embody elegance, beauty and sophistication and are certainly visually impressive enough to match their royal reputation. In addition to their elegant visual appearance, swans are intelligent, strong and adaptable birds with tremendous flying stamina. They are also gregarious birds, and different species of swans are often seen flocking together as one, so what are the collective nouns for a group of swans called?
There are a few different terms for a group of swans, depending on where they are and what they’re doing at the time. A herd, bevy or flock of swans are the most popular terms. Swans in flight are often called a wedge or a flight, and swans on the ground are sometimes called a bank, likely because they flock next to the banks of rivers and lakes.
Some species of swans like the Black swan are exceptionally gregarious and gather in their tens of thousands in southern Australia. Swans, like other waterfowl, also have a tendency to flock together in mixed species. A group of swans can be pretty loud - they’re capable of producing a wide variety of honks and will hiss menacingly at anyone who dares to get too close!
Read on to learn more about what a group of swans are called and other interesting facts about swans.
Flock of swans on the water
A ballet of swans
A drift of swans
An eyrar of swans
A fanfare of trumpeter swans
A flock of swans
A lamentation of swans
A mark of swans
A regatta of swans
A royal of swans
A school of swans
A sounder of swans
A squadron of swans
A swannery of swans
A tank of swans
A team of swans
A tranquility of swans
A “V” formation of swans
A whiteness of swans
A whiting of swans
A group of Tundra Swans migrating together in a flock
A flying group of swans is often called a wedge of swans, referring to the wedge-like formation swans form when flying. Swans tend to form a “V” formation with the front bird leading the way. The adult birds will take it in turns to lead the pack, bearing the brunt of the elements and navigational responsibilities.
Swans have phenomenal stamina and can fly thousands of kilometres without stopping for a break. Their wings are formidably strong and well-developed for stamina flight - some species, like the Whooper swan, have a wingspan exceeding 2.5m and look gigantic in the air.
It’s often said that swans are so strong that a flap of their wing can break bones, but this has largely been proved a myth, though they’re certainly not one to back off from a confrontation. In fact, a swan is thought to have upended a man’s kayak and prevented him from getting to the shore, thus causing him to drown, which shows there is some substance to this ubiquitous warning!
A group of Whooper Swans in flight
Migrating swans fly in groups because it’s much safer and more reliable than flying alone. Not all swans migrate, but those that do like the Bewick’s and Whooper Swan travel thousands of miles without stopping. To assist in long-distance flight, swans form a “V” formation, which reduces air resistance from the front to the back of the formation.
The front bird bears the brunt of the wind and elements, and thus, the strongest birds take it in turns to lead the way. It’s also easier for birds to communicate with each other in a “V” formation which aids in navigation and signalling for when to stop. Teamwork in the formation is strong - swans will continuously check to ensure that every bird is accounted for and that no one is struggling to keep up or trailing. If they are, then the entire group will usually slow down or stop.
A group of swans in the water might be called a bevy, flock or bank of swans. The term bank of swans refers to how swans flock on the sides - or banks - of rivers and lakes. These calmer waters are where swans prefer to feed, preen and perform their courtship rituals for mating.
A bank of swans can easily number in their hundreds or even thousands, and other waterfowl like ducks and geese regularly join nearby on the periphery of the flock.
A group of Swans on the water
Like ducks and geese, Swans are sociable, gregarious birds throughout most of the year but tend to seek isolation through breeding and nesting season.
Swans flock together via a sort of snowball effect where they gather in increasing numbers around a particularly suitable site that is rich in food, safe and comfortable - one pair of swans might be joined by another, and another, and so on and so forth. Younger swans gain protection in the flock and are able to follow the cues of their elders when searching for food - they might even learn a thing or two about swan courtship rituals too.
Flocks also provide safety in numbers - even one swan is quite a fierce adversary, but a hundred swans or more have enough firepower to ward away virtually any potential predators they might face.
Group of swans walking in a line
Swans lead a relatively leisurely life, particularly those that don’t migrate. A typical day involves a lot of preening and feeding, providing the bird isn’t looking after its young. Pairs of swans will spend plenty of time together as part of the flock but will spend time roaming alone too. They flock together when they’re not in a rush to go anywhere and are searching for a mate, typically before and after the mating and nesting season. Flocks are comprised mainly of single swans that are searching for a mate.
The number of swans in a flock depends on the species. The Mute swan, a familiar sight up and down the UK, will usually flock together in groups of around 10 to 50 birds. The Abbotsbury Swannery is home to some 1,000 swans, and they can flock together in larger groups to feed but will likely disperse into smaller groups after that. In the UK, Mute swans may gather with Bewick’s swans and Whooper swans in the same lakeside and riverbank spots.
The Black swan is the most gregarious of all species of swans, with some flocks numbering well into their tens of thousands along the banks of their preferred lakeside grazing sites in South Australia. Swans are gregarious in general and work together well as a team when migrating, even though they’re capable of being fiercely territorial.
A pair of swans has no specific name, but female swans are called ‘pens’ and males ‘cobs’. Swans typically have a ‘honeymoon period’ after they pair where they’ll build a nest, which takes around a year, but the female won’t lay eggs. It’ll take slightly longer for her to reach a safe ovulation weight.
A pair of swans together
There is no specific name for a group of baby swans (cygnets). Baby swans spend at least a year with their parents, who will share parenting roles. Swans are very protective over their young and will guard them closely until they’re old enough to join a flock.
Once juvenile swans join a flock of their own, they’ll likely remain with that flock, or some members of that flock, for up to 4 years until they’re fully grown or have found a mate, whichever comes first. By this point, they’ll have shed most of their greyer juvenile feathers.
Swans are relatively long-lived amongst birds of their size and can live until their late 20s.
A group of baby swans (cygnets) floating on the water
Baby swans (cygnets) live with their parents for around a year, usually until the spring after hatching. Both parents share feeding duties and will brood the chicks throughout winter to keep them warm. Once the cygnets are around one year old, the parents will leave the nest. The cygnets may leave on their own too but are often reluctant to leave their parents.
Swan flocks contain many juvenile and young swans that gain protection in the flock. Pairs of swans are fiercely territorial, but this territorial instinct is not so strong when non-breeding swans gather in a flock, hence why cygnets are reasonably at ease in the company of fully grown swans.
It’s pretty common to see a large mixture of waterfowl upon a river or lake. Birds gravitate to fertile and comfortable feeding areas and often gather as a mixture of species, typically including different species of swans and even geese and ducks. Whilst many waterfowl are aggressively territorial, they’re generally capable of brushing shoulders in flocks without fighting, though there will be some heated exchanges.
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