The Richmond Register

January 7, 2014

‘Swan (on freezing) Lake’

Lake Reba gets a few long-necked, white-winged visitors Tuesday

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — David Land, 71, of Richmond, has been visiting Lake Reba to observe its wildlife for “around 150 years,” he joked while shivering next to the lake Tuesday.

He spotted three white swans on the lake and invited the Richmond Register to come and see.

With temperatures in the low teens Tuesday, the swans dipped their heads into the chilly water, while swimming around in a tight-knit group.

The swans, which he jokingly named, “Hop-along,” “Tag-along,” and “Come-along,” were all male, Land said, which he thought was unusual. Female swans have gray streaks on their wings, he said.

When asked what was so unusual about three males traveling together, he laughed.

“Like any other thing, they like women, too,” he replied.

Land said he’s traveled all over the country in his lifetime, and this is the farthest north he had seen these kind of swans in the winter. He called them the “double first cousins to the flamingo.”

Madison County Extension Agent Scott Darst identified the swans as the invasive, non-native species called mute swans.

According to a 2011 publication by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, only mute swans breed in Indiana, while other species of native swans may migrate through and/or spend the winter there.

Mute swans are identified by their orange bill. It is the only swan that usually carries its neck in a strongly-curved S-shape while swimming, and is likely to be in areas frequented by people, according to the Indiana DNR.

Federal protection of the exotic mute swan was removed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act in 2004 because the species is non-native. In fact, several states enforce lethal removal policies for mute swans because of the bird’s threat to native aquatic plants and other species, the DNR said.

According to the Michigan DNR, mute swans were brought to the United States from Europe in the late 1800s, and that its 15,000-plus swan population originated from one pair introduced to Michigan in 1919.

As for why the three mute swans made their way to Richmond, sometimes the cold weather will push migration to different areas, said Jamie Cook of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.