June 26, 2017
This past weekend, I paired up with my erstwhile protégé Camille to pick up some easy “gets” for our birding lists: swans. These birds are mostly introduced or from feral stock but various organizations, like the ABA and local organizations (and eBird) have been allowing some of these birds to be “officially” counted as they become established breeders or long term residents well outside their native ranges. Introduced animals are always a potential problem, but that’s hardly the birds’ faults.
Like the swans of Lake Morton in Lakeland, the swans in Orlando’s Lake Eola [map] are a source of pride and attraction to the downtown area. The lake and its park are central both geographically and culturally for many of Orlando’s events.
By and large the lake is dominated by Mute Swans. These birds are breeding here, just as they are in Lakeland. Most Mute cygnets (the term for young swans) are brownish-gray, but some have a genetic expression that makes them more white right out of the egg.
Mute Swans are native to Europe but have been introduced extensively around the world. Despite their beauty and grace, they can be ruthless and domineering when threatened or challenged. Luckily for us, they were mostly content to lets us walk by while their children relaxed and preened.
Several pairs of Black Swans were there as well. Black Swans are native to Australia, but introduced widely in the USA and Europe (my lifer Black Swan is from London during my honeymoon). Their bright red bills really stand out against the birds dark plumage.
South America has the Black-necked Swan, of which one was visible on our visit. The contrasting body and neck as well as the red facial knobs (carunculations) are diagnostic for this species of swan.
I’ve seen Trumpeter Swans in flight in New England as a child and young adult, but never up close or floating on the water. It was a treat to see one mingling with the other swans.
Whooper Swans are also present at Lake Eola, with several presumably mated pairs. They are native to Europe and Asia, and are closely related to Trumpeter Swans. The main visible difference between the two is their bill color. Whooper Swans are the Eurocentric “prototypical” swan as evidenced by their scientific name, Cygnus cygnus (the Latin word for swan).
There was a surprisingly wide range of bird species from the expected, like Mottled/Mallard crosses and Muscovy Ducks, to local natives like herons and egrets.
Here’s the full eBird list for those interested:
Lake Eola is a beautiful setting right in downtown Orlando, and though it can get crowded at times (especially if special events are taking place) I recommend a visit if you’re in the area.