Mute Swan
(Cygnus olor)


Picture of bird
© Bill Morden
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Mute Swan is an introduced and invasive species in Canada. It can be readily distinguished from the other two native swan species (Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan) by its deeply curved neck and prominent black knob at the base of its orange bill. Intentional introductions and accidental escapes of these birds in the late 1880s to the early 1900s resulted in a rapidly expanding population in the northeastern United States. The species was first noted in Canada in the mid-1900s and numbers have been increasing since then. There is now a population established along the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and a smaller population in southern British Columbia. The Mute Swan is listed as a species of management interest in the Ontario Region Bird Conservation Region Strategy due to its high abundance. National population goals have not been established for this and other introduced species.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Not applicable2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighNot Applicable

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000 - 10,000 birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaNot Applicable

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early April and mid-April and ends between late June and early July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

In Canada, all swan species are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. This makes the Mute Swan one of the few non-native species to be afforded a legal protection in Canada. However, Mute Swans are highly territorial and aggressive towards other swans and waterfowl and can have a negative impact on these species (Ciaranca et al. 1997). Foraging swans can also uproot entire plants, which reduces food for other native waterfowl and other wildlife. As the population increases, conflicts with humans are increasing. Mute Swans are large, powerful birds capable of causing serious injury to people and pets; permits may be issued to help control these birds. Further research on the effects of Mute Swan on North American wetlands is warranted. There is no hunting season for Mute Swan in Canada.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation & Management