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Swan tackles large eel

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:24 UK time, Friday, 14 May 2010

Now here's something you don't see everyday...

Roving wildlife photographer Mike Davies has been keeping an eye on a pair of nesting swans on the Neath canal for a few weeks now.

In this shot taken yesterday, the female swan can be seen on the nest inspecting her eight eggs:
swan_eggs.jpg

Mike was out and about early again this morning on swan patrol, when to his astonishment the male swan pulled out a large eel in it's its beak and ate it.

The male swan with the eel in its beak:
swan_eel.jpg

I've never ever heard of such behaviour before and always assumed swans only ate small insects, molluscs, water plants, other vegetation and the occasional small fish but never eels?

A close up of the shot:
swan_eel1.jpg

If anyone has witnessed this behaviour before or can shed any light on it then I'd love to hear from you.
 
Please leave a comment in the blog.

Gull

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree; You already have a great challenge Doug, keep it up.

  • Comment number 5.

    Why everything has to be transformed into a confrontation of some sort?

    Doug: I agree with you -> if someone writes for BBC it is normal to expect them to write in perfect English but on the other hand you could've just say : hey dude you've got a typo.

    The others: calm down and either relax or get a life yourselves.

    PS English is not my first language so please spare me of any acid comments :P

  • Comment number 6.

    There's dedication! Commenting on others' minor grammatical errors while displaying a total disregard for the glories of nature. Truly, Doug elevates pedantry to an art form. I am humbled.

  • Comment number 7.

    This is obviously a typo.

    "swan pulled out a large eel in it's beak and ate it."
    and
    "The male swan with the eel in its beak:"

    This proves it.

    What's the point of commenting on people's minor typo mistakes?
    I dare you to say you have never typed/wrote a word wrong in your life.

  • Comment number 8.

    You lot make me ashamed to be human...Pay attention to the original subject!

  • Comment number 9.

    Just about all the folks in the group of blog editors I communicate with found the post interesting and the blog-owner's curiosity about nature a positive.

    Most of the commenters are about as ignorant and narrow-minded as the average troll.

  • Comment number 10.

    So that's where all our eels are going!!
    :-0

  • Comment number 11.

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    …..\lllllllllllllllllllllllllll/………\;;;;llllllllllll,-`~-,
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    I thought you were all going to talk about swans and eels.

  • Comment number 12.

    Wow! I think this is a great area to explore.

    Maybe this type of behavior is some type odd adaptation. Maybe due to some nutrient lacking in the swans diet.

    Or maybe some type of sick behavior due to a pollutant in the swans
    enviroment.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Doug,

    Are you sure the swan was actually aiming to eat the eel?

    I'm asking because I've recently observed that swans put a lot of effort into 'clearing out' the waters around their nest, when the water is shallow. I saw both members of a nesting pair do this, pulling out weeds, breaking off branches and so on. I was wondering that perhaps the eel was dead and the male swan on the picture was just trying to get rid of it. Or maybe it wasn't dead, only sessile and was putting up a fight when the swan tried to move it, so the swan had to grab it more violently...?

    Anyhow, just guessing here. I did see a black otter today (Cambridge), which was quite cool:)

    Keep up the good work!

    Sela

  • Comment number 14.

    OK, so I actually meant to write that comment addressed to Gull, not Doug.

  • Comment number 15.

    Very interesting photos, and unexpected behaviour. Leif

  • Comment number 16.

    Great pics

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with Sela's suggestion that food might not have been the swan's interest when it contemplated the eel. Or maybe it just fancied some protein and didn't realise what a massive dose it was about to get! Either way, it'd be interesting to know if the eel was alive. I've seen cormorants tackling eels, and it's not a simple task, even for a fully-adapted predator.

    Its it's its it's its ...

  • Comment number 18.

    I grew up on a small hobby farm and one of my responsibilities was taking care of a flock of about 30 ducks. The pen that held the ducks was basically a fenced-in area next to a pond and on occasion, a frog would wander into the pen and would promptly be gobbled up by the first duck that could swallow the frog whole. The ducks would stumble over each other in such a frenzy as they chased the frog around the pen and would often grab the frog right out of another ducks bill in an attempt to steal it away. Having seen this, it isn't difficult to believe that a swan might enjoy a bit o eel from time to time as well!

  • Comment number 19.

    There is a pair of swans (same pair I think) that have nested at a pond near my house for years, each year produce 7-8 cygnets, but none have reached adulthood due to turtles eating the cygnets. I have seen a swan attempt to attack turtles (to no avail). Could the pictured swan be attempting to remove a predator from the nesting area?

  • Comment number 20.

    In 1976 (year of the drought), the river Slea in Sleaford, Lincs dried up. For a while the river bed was alive with eels and I witnessed the swans eating them. We had not known that there were eels in the river before. Whether the swans ate them because of lack of water or because they eat them if available anyway, I don't know. Hope this is interesting.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for all your comments so far.

    I asked Mike, the photographer whether the swan had shared the eel with its mate but apparently he wolfed it down in one go.

  • Comment number 22.

    Krubermahn... Shame on you... Next time I expect to see the 'Pickard Face-palm.'

  • Comment number 23.

    Amazing behaviour (I mean the swan's, not the typoists'!). I suggest the swan is just storing the eel in an eel-shaped container (its neck)! Perhaps a sprinkling of apostrophes for 'afters'?

  • Comment number 24.

    Not so strange, I would think. Hens and roosters eat fish including sardines (that are large compared to their beak size) and long worms and such. So it is not surprising that the swan with such a long neck can easily eat an eel!

  • Comment number 25.

    Thanks for all your comments relating to this unusual capture
    I went to check on the eggs and I think that Sela has got it about right
    I wanted to capture water dripping off the swans beak with the reflections,looking through the cameras viewfinder I couldn't see that it was an eel that he pulled up, but I thought that was a heck of a lot of water coming from his mouth, so I was well pleased with the shot as it was,
    I had my dog with me so after taking the capture we just went on our way, it wasn't till later when I uploaded the photos to the PC screen that to my amazement it was an eel, I mailed the photo to my twin who is a fisherman for him to confirm the evidence, even he was amazed, I never saw the swan put it back in the canal the only thing I can think of is that he gulped it down, whether she threw it back after I couldn't say
    but I was thrilled to have captured such an unusual shot, and share it with the nation, in all my 60 yrs of photography this was a 1st and perhaps the like I will never witness again.
    but it has given us all a good discussion and insight into what nature can surprise us all with

  • Comment number 26.

    Reminded me of this story of cormorant eating an eel in the Taff in Cardiff last year: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8097291.stm

  • Comment number 27.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 28.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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