The image of the pair of Mute Swans with their family of young cygnets is surely an idyllic scene, but there have been happenings around the island that may put this image in a different light.
It was reported to me tha,t on the morning of 8 June in Whiting Bay, the male swan of the pair that produced three cygnets started to attack one of the other swans that visit the feeding station opposite the Royal Hotel. The attack went on for several hours resulting in the death of the attacked swan. There was another dead swan lying further along the shore nearer the centre of the village.
The excellent two volume publication “Birds of Scotland” edited by Ron Forester and Ian Andrews and produced by the SOC states “Once established at a site….pairs can become involved in serious disputes, and it is not unknown for fatalities to occur, usually by drowning.” Mute Swans with cygnets are very aggressive and have been known to kill other birds as well as their own species that are a perceived threat to the cygnets.
The publication goes onto to comment on established pairs remaining together for a number of years and adds “Both incest and inbreeding have also been reported”. This also occurred in Arran this year. The male of the pair at Blackwaterfoot died over the winter. The female mated with one of her male offspring from last summer. Young male swans are not usually capable of breeding until they are three or four years old, so the six eggs produced were not fertile.
All these goings-on among Mute Swans on Arran!