The impact of captivity on the behaviour of mute swans (Cygnus olor)

Jessica Guyon


The mute swan (Cygnus olor) is a large water fowl species widely distributed in Great Britain. They are residential and territorial so often there is no interchange between groups. Swans face many injuries in the wild so are brought into wild life centres for treatment and rehabilitation. The aim of this study was to see if their captive behaviour differed from the behaviour of wild conspecifics. This was achieved by performing observations of captive and wild mute swans. From this it was found that several behaviours were more common in captivity these were standing, standing whilst preening or feeding, lying, lying whilst preening or content and walking. Whereas, in the wild behaviours such as swimming, loafing whilst feeding, preening or whilst alert and foraging occurred more often. I found that there was a lack of active behaviours in captivity when compared to the wild. This is due to space restrictions and the absence of enrichment. The importance of encouraging activity and the benefits of enrichment are well acknowledged in most species of animals. However, the use of enrichment for water fowl species has been over looked. Future research is needed examining the behaviour of captive water fowl species and in the development of enrichment devices for this species.

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