Territorial swan

Because Mute Swans are graceful, people assume they have a placid temperament; unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. This weekend while I was in Boston, I took a quick trip through the Public Garden, where loose throngs of tourists and photographers were admiring one of the pair of nesting Mute Swans as it swam with curved neck and upraised wings, the exact posture emulated by the Public Garden’s famous swan boats:

Parallel parking

Unfortunately, this curved-neck, raised-wing posture isn’t a placid pose; instead, it’s a threat display called “busking.” A swan swimming with curved neck and raised wings is trying to look big and menacing as it chases other birds from its territory, and swans (like geese) are particularly aggressive when it comes to defending their territories.

On Sunday in Boston, the “other bird” this swan was chasing out of its territory was a female mallard who swam the entire length of the duckpond trying to escape the angry swan on her tail.

Swan chasing mallard hen

This bruising bully of a swan had good reason for wanting to shoo all other waterfowl from its territory…

Nesting swan

…but that female mallard had her own reasons for feeling protective.

Safe ashore

After hurrying her ducklings onto shore, the female mallard made one last quacking attack, flying directly at the swan and successfully chasing it toward another corner of the duckpond, where it continued to busk and bully other waterfowl. Perhaps this pond is big enough for both of them.

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