Why Do Swans Swim in Circles? Uncover the Secret Behind Their Mysterious Movements!



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Watching mute swans swimming and floating in the local park can be a peaceful and serene experience. The grace and beauty of the feathers of these waterfowl as they glide through the water can be mesmerizing. 

However, there may be times when you notice a swan swimming in circles, seemingly confused or disoriented. This behavior can be quite striking and might make you wonder what could be causing it.

The seemingly odd behavior of a swan swimming in circles could mean many things. It could be an indication of trauma, a sign of avian flu, or the result of webbed feet being tangled with a fishing net. Sometimes, the cause of this behavior is not immediately obvious, and it can take some investigation to determine what is going on. 

However, it is important to remember that swans are wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable. In any case, it’s best to observe them safely and call your local wildlife services if you think the swan needs immediate assistance. 

Key Takeaways on Swans Swimming In Circles

  • A male swan may swim in circles to show dominance over other swans and to attract a female.
  • Swans may swim in circles because they are injured.
  • Other swans may have their feet caught and trying to get free.

What are the possible reasons of swans swimming in circles?

Swans are majestic and elegant creatures, often captivating us with their graceful and serene movements in the water. However, many people have noticed that two swans sometimes swim in circles, which can be intriguing.

Here are the possible reasons for these odd swan behavior:

Webbed foot tangled in fishing line or plastic bag

These waterfowl can get their webbed feet tangled in fishing lines or plastic bags, which can cause them to swim in circles. This is because the entanglement can cause pain and discomfort, affecting their ability to swim straight.

It can also cause injuries to the foot and make it difficult for them to move their legs properly.

Injury or head trauma

If one swan suffers an injury to its head or brain, it can cause disorientation and affect the bird’s ability to swim in a straight line. This can cause it to swim in circles as it tries to regain balance and orientation. The swans could also be drowning.

Head trauma can be caused by collisions or getting hit by boats, cars, or other animals and can lead to permanent damage if left untreated.

Lead poisoning

These waterfowl can be exposed to lead through contaminated water or food sources. Lead exposure can affect their central nervous system, causing disorientation and making them swim in circles.

High levels of lead can also cause other symptoms, such as lethargy, weakness, and tremors, which can be fatal if left untreated. Some swans may even drown.

Bird flu or H5N8

A swan may swim in circles if infected with the H5N8 strain of avian influenza. This is a highly contagious virus that affects swans’ respiratory and nervous systems, causing symptoms such as weakness, disorientation, and paralysis.

In 2020, swan rescuers in Worcestershire have taken in more than 25 dying waterfowl and nine swans were discovered dead in Stanley Park in Blackpool.

Show of dominance over other male swans

Two birds may swim in circles and flap their wings as part of courtship or to mark their nesting and feeding territory. Male swans, in particular, may engage in this behavior to show dominance over other males in the area during the beginning of the mating season. This is a common aggressive behaviour between two males observed during the breeding season and is a way for males to assert their power and attract a mate.

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