Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Nairn Swans Feeding Regime

It has come to the Trusts attention about local Facebook posts, regarding the feeding of Swans Bread. 

The Nairn Swans are the most successful family of Swans that I am personally aware of, ANYWHERE in the country .
I have been feeding and caring for them for 14 years, and observed, studied and researched much about Mute swans their lives, habits and requirements. I have posted many times about the best feeding for them, as proven by their age, good health and breeding success on the river Nairn.

This is no accident, as I provided them with an Island to nest on, which has given Penny our resident female an almost perfect location to lay and successfully hatch her offspring. So far she has successfully reared 70 cygnets, out of more than 80 eggs laid over the past 11 years.

She is approximately 17 years old now.
I learned a long time ago that the river Nairn only provides natural weed for about 5 months of the year, but the sea shore also provides a percentage of certain sea weed which they have access to when the tide suits.

When I started feeding the swans before Penny and Duke, fed them any type of bread. Within a short while I was informed that white bread was bad for them. Researching the subject, found this seemed to be common knowledge among bird " Experts ". Then heard a disturbing report that the  Scottish SPCA had to remove sick swans from Linlithgow loch, because they were being fed too much white bread by people. The swans were apparently developing an illness similar to rickets, that gave them a weak muscular system. 

This prevented them from tugging and pulling the weed from the bottom.
I took note of this and started experimenting, feeding them different things. My love for these birds prompted this action. Keeping the food as natural as I could provide, I fed them Wheat grain, which Initially I used to soak overnight, thinking that being softer it would be easier to eat. Sure enough they ate it readily, I also bought poultry grower pellets which were essentially wheat based but had added vitamins to help the immune system, these also went down a treat. 

Penny however occasionally got very picky, especially prior to nesting time when egg production was beginning. This was when she would often only eat wholemeal bread. I realised this was quite deliberate as she was seeking out minerals and algae to help with the production of eggs, also tried her with thawed garden peas which she sometimes ate, I pulled fresh soft green grass, which again they would eat during the spring/ summer along with young dandelion leaves. Mixed wild bird seed is also an important part of their diet. Large Porridge oats is also appealing from time to time. as well as very thinly sliced carrots. I mean so thin they are pliable, otherwise they will not eat them. 

White bread has no nutritional value, whereas wholemeal has about 10% protein and is OK providing it is fresh. Mouldy bread is poisonous to swans and ducks !
The Trust spends over £50 a week feeding the Nairn Swans and ducks with a healthy balanced diet, Wheat, maintenance pellets, mixed wild bird seed, carrots, porridge oats and wholemeal. NO WHITE BREAD Thank you. I hope everyone takes note. 
I have seen people throwing all sorts to the swans over the years, curry, chips, crisps, grapes, inedible rock hard French sticks, blue mouldy bread, even frozen fish ! 
The mouths of swans and ducks are limited in size, and therefore anything given has to be of appropriate size to swallow instantly, otherwise they get hounded by seagulls until they drop it.
I hope the Facebook couch surfers read this and learn something advantageous to our River birds.

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