Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: swan from Philip's Encyclopedia

Any of several species of graceful, white or black waterfowl that nest in N Northern Hemisphere and migrate S for winter. Most have broad, flat bills, long necks, plump bodies, and dense plumage. They dip their heads under water to feed on plant matter. Length: to 2m (6.5ft). Family Anatidae; genus Cygnus.

Summary Article: swan
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

common name for a large aquatic bird of both hemispheres, related to ducks and geese. It has a long, gracefully curved neck and an extremely long, convoluted trachea which makes possible its far-carrying calls. The orange-billed white trumpeter swan, Cygnus buccinator, seen in parks, is the mute swan, of Old World origin. It breeds in the wild state in parts of Europe, Asia, and the United States. During the breeding season it has a trumpetlike note, softer in the tame birds. The whistling swan migrates from the arctic to Mexico. Conservation measures saved the almost extinct trumpeter swan of North America, the largest species. Wild species in Europe include the whooper (or whooping) and the Bewick swans. The black swan, Chenopis atrata, is native to Australia, and the black-necked swan, Cygnus melancoriphus, to South America. The black swan has been domesticated. Swans are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Anseriformes, family Anatidae.

  • See study by P. Scott and the Wildfowl Trust (1972).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Swan
A Dictionary of Literary Symbols

The swan (Greek kyknos , Latin cycnus or cygnus , or olor ) has long been one of the most popular birds in poetry, not least because of the...

Full text Article swan
Word Origins

[OE] (Old English) Swan is a general Germanic word, with relatives in German schwan , Dutch zwaan , Swedish svan , and Danish svane ....

Full text Article swan
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A large waterbird belonging to a genus ( Cygnus ; 7-8 species) occurring worldwide on fresh waters or sheltered coasts and estuaries. 100-160...

See more from Credo