Swan Predators. Important Facts you Should Know


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Swan predators are those animals that hunt, kill and eat swans for their survival. They often prey on swans, cygnets, or eggs for food. The animals that prey on swans can be grouped in carnivores or omnivores.

Carnivores depend on meat for survival and may include predators such as lions, eagles, leopards and hyenas among others. On the other hand, herbivores eat both meat and plants as a source of food and include bears, monkeys and human beings.

Read Also: Are Swans Dangerous to Humans?

Swan Predators

Source: Trumpeter Swan Society

Do Swans have Predators?

Naturally, Swans are the biggest birds of the waterfowl species. The cygnets are known to grow into huge adult birds that weigh between 10 to 14 kgs in males and 9 to 12 kgs in females. They adult swan can grow to between 55 to 65 inches in length with a wingspan of between 79 to 94 inches.

They have tough feet and a strong bill that makes them very dangerous when facing an enemy. Due to their immense size, adult swans are difficult to be preyed on as it requires technique and energy to bring them down.

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Secondly, they live in marshy and watery parts located across the globe such as lakes, swamps, and in large rivers. The swans spend most of their lives in these habitats. They will often be seen wading in swamps or swimming in a large of water in search of food.

In addition, they set their nests in the same environment where they keep watch of their eggs until they hatch into cygnets. These habitats are unfriendly to many predators that often would not wade in swamps or water in attempt to prey on swans.

More importantly, their relations with other swans help to protect them from predators almost throughout their life cycle. It is notable that swans are social birds that live in groups consisting of family members or age mates. From a young age, the cygnets are taught by their parents ways of identifying enemies and keeping themselves safe.

This knowledge is passed down from generation to generation and its no wonder all adult swans guard their nesting territory fiercely from enemies and predators. Swans are always on guard for approaching enemies, and would often alert the rest whenever they spot one. For instance, those is water will flap their wings, while those in other place may glock or hiss as an indication of an approaching enemy.

In addition, despite their size, swans can run very fast and fly at high altitudes. It is notable that during flight, they can attain speed of between 18 to 30 miles per hour. As such, most preying birds such as eagles, hawks and owls among others are weaker than the swans, and hence will choose other animals such as small rodents, fish, and birds as their prey to avoid any conflicts with the swans.

The above features and adaptions make it hard for the swans to be preyed on. However, they are not completely immuned to carnivorous animals and birds as they are known to be a source of food for both aquatic and land predators, depending on circumstances.

Under what Circumstances are they Preyed on?

Swans have been a source of livelihood for many aquatic animals, birds and land predators. Though not easy to prey on them, the following factors contribute to their vulnerabilities.


Even though the adult swans are huge, their young ones are small and very vulnerable to different types of predators. New born cygnets are known to be prey to fast moving bird predators such as crows, magpies, herons, hawks, kites and eagles among others. They are also eaten by turtles, fish, and snakes. In many of the preying circumstance, cygnets are snapped by their predators and dragged to places where their parents cannot access such as in holes, below the water or high up in the sky.

Similarly, the older the swan is, the more vulnerable to predators they become. Naturally, the energy in any animal diminishes as they grow older. Cells die and are not replaced making them to be less functional in old age than in young adults. The old swans cannot fly longer distances, and neither can they run as fast as they used. As such, they are left behind when other members of their group move to another location. In addition, they lack the same defense mentality when attacked and are likely to be killed as prey by many opportunistic predators.


Swans feed on aquatic plants, fish and insects that give them the required minerals to grow into healthy adults. Even though majority of the birds live to mature and withstand many predators, some of them become sick and unable to fend for themselves even when they are grown up.

In certain circumstances, the swans get injured while defending themselves or fighting away members from other families. Sometimes, the injuries are so extreme especially when inflicted on their eyes making it difficult for them to see or feet and wings that will limit their abilities to move in search of food.

Whether sick or injured, such swans may not match the abilities to repulse their enemies. In addition, they may have lost all the energy to defend themselves and hence end up being easy targets for passing predators.

Protection Status

Swans are protected by laws in many parts where they are found. In some places, they are even hosted in protected areas where hunting and predation is controlled. In such environments, it becomes very difficult for them to be preyed on, and this is the main reason why those living in protected areas live for as long as 30 to 40 years.

Starving Swans or Diminishing Supply of other Prey

When the food supplies in a habitat become depleted due to one reason or another, it is barely enough for all the animals that depend on it. Limited food supply may cause cannibalism to spring out within a very hungry population leading to fights and more injuries.

Similarly, when other prey supplies diminish leaving the swan population as the main source of food for predators, chances of them being preyed on increase even if they are known to be ferocious on their enemies.

What are some of the Common Swan Predators?


Historically, human beings have hunted swans for various reasons. First, they were a delicacy in royal and functions for wealthy people in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world and their feathers used to make ornaments, pillows and decorative items for functions.

In the modern days, swans are protected by laws making it illegal for them to be hunted but sometimes the restrictions are lifted to control their population when they grow beyond a certain limit. For instance, in the United States, Swan hunting is allowed in the States of Nevada, Alaska, Utah, Montana, Virginia, West and South Dakota.

In some countries, there are no restrictions and swans are hunted for their meat. For instance, in some parts of Canada, they have been stated to be the juiciest source of meat.

Even though there is some form of protection, predation by human beings hurts the swan population as they are often trapped in large numbers across the globe during migration. For instance, in the year 2013, New York tried to enact a policy  that considered the mute swan as an invasive bird that should be eradicated.

Bad laws and in extreme cases, indiscriminate hunting by use chemicals or traps that kill these birds in mass is the biggest predatory threat to their population. As such, efforts must be made across the globe of the dwindling populations of some swan species are to be restored.

Domestic Dogs

Dogs can pose a significant threat to the existence and breeding of swans and other aquatic fowls. Dogs have a natural instinct for hunting hence may view swans as potential prey or birds that they can play with.

As such, unsupervised domestic dogs prowling on unguarded swan habitat are known to hunt, kill or injure these birds. On the same note, even if dog’s intention is not to injure the swans, their presence alone causes disturbance within the flock leading to abandoned nests, and disrupted feeding of both the swans and their cygnets.

Large Predatory Birds

Large birds of prey such as eagles and owls are known to pounce on small animals like fish and birds. However, they also take advantage of the vulnerable individuals in the swan family such as cygnets, or mature and injured or sick swans.

Swan Predators

They use their strong and powerful talons with very sharp beaks while hunting for prey. Although cases of attacks on mature swans are very rare, the bald eagle in North America and its white-tailed counterpart in Europe have occasionally preyed on waterfowls like swans when other sources of food have been depleted.

On the other hand, owls are nocturnal birds with ability to navigate in the dark. They are known to use their powerful talons to attack their prey are believed to target swans that are resting or sleeping in their habitat at night. 

Other bird predators that prey on swans or their young ones include raptors, kites, hawks, vultures, ospreys, buzzards, and falcons among others. These birds, just like the eagles and the owls take advantage of the vulnerable swans to attack and kill them while some like the vultures will eat those that are already dead.

Wild Canines

The list of predators in the jungle is endless. The most notable ones include the large cat family that consists of lions, tigers, leopards, and cheetahs among others. It also includes wild dogs, foxes, and hyenas. This group of predators is nondiscriminatory. More often, they will go on a hunting mission and catch any prey including a non-suspecting swan.  

In the swan family, this kind of predators would catch the swans that cannot outrun them or fly away when cornered. As such, the sick, the old and the injured swans are vulnerable to these predators if they come hunting in the watery or marshy habitat where swans live.

Aquatic Predators

Lakes and rivers where swans live is awash with many predators that feed on any type of animal that lives or mistakenly finds its way to these habitats. This includes Crocodiles, Sea lions, large fish such as sharks, Seals, turtles and snakes among others.

Swan Predators

It is said that aquatic predators have an influence on the ecosystem by creating a balance in the prey population. Both the cygnets and mature swans are vulnerable to aquatic predators once submerged in water. Predators move to areas where they can find food while prey finds a habitat that is devoid with the predatory dangers.

For instance, swans avoid habits that are infested by any of the aquatic predators but sometimes find themselves living in their midst. When this happens, swans end up on the predator’s food chain due to their inability to breath and see underwater.

For instance, in the year 2006, there reports of about 9 Lakeland swans that had been killed by alligators. It is notable that aquatic predators take advantage of the swan’s inability to swim fast while escaping and pull them below the water surface to drown before eating them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are swans vulnerable to predatory attacks?

Swans are known for their immense sizes that intimidates most predators. However, the smaller ones, the sick, and the injured are known to be attacked and eaten by even the smallest of predators such as mongooses. Hence, it can be concluded that swans are still prone to predatory attacks.

Under what circumstances are swans preyed on?

Even though cases of swans being preyed on are very rare, this still happens to the young ones, and to those that are weak due to sickness, injury, and those that have not been fed for some time. Hence, swans are preyed on depending on their age and health status.

Who are the main swan predators?

Swans are food for many animals. Where circumstances allow, they are hunted by humans for food and feathers. The other predators include large birds of prey such as eagles, owls, buzzards, and vultures among others. They are also hunted by wild canines such as lions, leopards and other big cats. In the water, sometimes they become a crocodile’s diet and their cygnets snapped up by turtles and mid to large sized fish.

What makes the swans less attacked by most predators?

Swans are social birds that alert others whenever they spot danger. As such, they are able to take cover or work in unison to fend off any potential predatory attacks.

Are swan’s species protected?

There are territories in which swans are protected by law while in others they are not. Hence, depending on the territory one is living or visiting, swans can either be protected or not. Hence, it will be important for one to check laws applicable to swans in the jurisdiction they are in before engaging in swan hunting.  


Swans are the largest birds of the waterfowl species. They  can grow to measure between 55 to 65 inches in length with a wingspan of between 79 to 94 inches thereby intimidating most of their potential predators. They can also fly to speeds of between 18- 30 miles per hour chasing birds of prey that have snapped up their young ones.

Swans chose their habitat intelligently and most of the time stay in areas with no predators. Their adaptation to live in marshy and watery places has kept them away from many of the land predators. Despite being considered safe, they too have predators that prey on them.

Though not common, the cygnets, the old, the sick, and the injured that cannot defend themselves find themselves on the predator’s food chain.

Their main predators are humans who have hunted them for food for a long time. In some places, humans kill the swans in large numbers by using traps or chemicals. At the same time, they destroy the habitats by rehabilitating wetlands making the swans to migrate to dangerous places inhabited by other predators.

There are also domestic dogs and wild canines that hunt any size of animal. As such, the saving grace for swans is their ability to run faster or fly to escape marauding canines. In the water, Swans are hunted by crocodiles, large fish, and other reptiles.

In the air, there are large predatory birds always checking for the vulnerable cygnets to snatch or dead swans to be scavenged. As such, even though swans are safer from predators compared to the other water fowl species, they too are vulnerable to predators of different sizes and types.

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