Mariah Nichols, Staff Writer
Be kind to your webbed footed friends, as three fluffy newcomers will soon be making their way to the City of Lakeland.
Companion Animal Hospital on Bartow Road has become a place called home for a trio of Australian Black Swans. They were successfully hatched making it a first in seven years all due to a Lyon incubator that the city purchased for $3,500 with high expectations. This device has a unique feature that allows it to roll the eggs slowly to keep them at the right temperature. City officials are thrilled because there are no documented cases of Black Swan eggs successfully incubated before now. Australian Black Swans cost between $600 to $800 per bird. Lakeland has 20 black swans in total, which the City started acquiring in the early 1990’s.
“We are very excited because black swans are not the greatest parents,” said Kevin Cook, the director of communications for the City of Lakeland. “Our birds neglect their young and don’t take very good care of their eggs.”
Dr. Patricia Mattson, the city’s official veterinarian, has been overseeing this process, making sure the babies hatch safely and protecting them temporarily while they are young. The clinic plans to return them back to their parents once they grow healthy and are old enough.
“Lakeland has a flock of 75 swans that live downtown between Lake Morton and Lake Mirror,” states Cook. “The swan population is made up of four species: Australian Black Swans, White Mutes, South American Black-Necked Swans and White Coscoroba Swans.”
According to Cook, the swans in Lakeland date back as far as the 1920’s making their first appearance during that time as people’s pets, but by 1954 the first population of swans was completely wiped out by predators and disease. In 1957, Lakeland resident, Mrs. Robert Pickhardt, who was residing in England at the time, reached out to the Queen of England to help restore the Lakeland’s swan population. Cook also adds that according to British law, the Queen owns all of the swans along the Thames River in England.
“Queen Elizabeth graciously donated a pair of mute swans from Richard the Lion-Hearted’s flock to Lakeland, provided the City would pay for the shipping and handling,” Cook explains. “The two swans adapted very well to their new home in Lakeland, where their offspring still thrives today.”
Visitors who choose to visit the swans at Lake Morton will notice two new feeders have been installed. One is placed on the north side of the lake in front of the Chamber of Commerce and the other on the south side near Success Avenue. The new feeders are a replica of a bubble gum machine which takes quarters and allows the public to get a handful of well-balanced, healthy snacks for the swans. Dr. Mattson noticed after the swan’s last annual physical that the heavy gluten diet of white bread visitors had been giving them was not as beneficial to their health as this new option from the two dispensers. On average, it costs about $10,000 per year to feed these domestic swans that have become Lakeland’s community icons.
The recent hatching of the new baby swans has brought with it new excitement and pride following a long and fascinating history. So, the next time you are by the lake watching these beautiful creatures glide across the water, just know these birds aren’t just like any other…they are the heart of our city.
For more cute photos and to see a video of the baby swans, please visit our website at www.fscsouthern.com.
Swan Fun Facts
- The swan has over 2500 feathers in its body
- Cygnophobia or kiknophobia is the fear of swans
- There are six different species of swans
- A swan will mate for life
- Swans are highly intelligent and remember who has been kind to them or not
- A baby swan is called a cygnet
- Swans can weigh up to 30 pounds and measure anywhere from 56 to 62 inches in length
- A male swan is called a cob, and a female is called a pen
- Black swans are native to Australia
- Swan eggs take between 35 and 42 days to hatch