Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mute Swan

Mute Swans
Originally uploaded by ammodramus88
On this day in 1916, a young swan was picked up "exhausted" and identified as a Tundra Swan (then Whistling Swan) at Elizabeth in Union County. This observation was included in a list of "unusual visitors" by Charles Urner that was published in the Auk in 1921. One issue later, there was a sequel. The swan (published as a Tundra Swan either through misidentification or typographical error: both are blamed) turned out to be a Mute Swan, which was at that time an introduced species with a very limited distribution in the New York City area. W. De Witt Miller at the American Museum of Natural History made the correct identification after seeing the bird. In 1932, Urner published a further account of the species' spread in NJ; at that point he said it was "completely naturalized...a number of pairs breed in a wild state in suitable ponds along the coast from the vicinity of Asbury Park to Bayhead" (Urner 1932). When Witmer Stone wrote Bird Studies at Old Cape May, he quoted Urner and noted that Mute Swan was not yet known to reach Cape May (Stone 1965). By the time Walsh et al. was published in 1999, Mute Swan was breeding across the state (including Cape May), mostly in the north, though the distribution was somewhat scattered. Coastal ponds remain excellent places to see Mute Swans; in spring, large numbers can be seen in various locations.

Urner, Charles A. 1932. Mute Swan in New Jersey. Auk 49:213. PDF here
Urner, Charles A. 1921. Unusual visitors at Elizabeth, N. J. Auk 38:120-121. PDF here
Urner, Charles A. 1921. Whistling Swan: A correction. Auk 38:273. PDF here

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