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What Do Swans Eat?

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Swans are best known for their grace.  These beautiful birds belong to the Anatidae family and there are only six living species of swans found after several species became extinct. These graceful birds are rather large with the biggest species, the mute, trumpeter, and whooper swan, reaching a length of up to 1.5meters in height and 15kg.

Natural bevies of swans are usually found in tropical areas with temperate warm weather.  Some of the swan species do migrate but others only partially migrate in wintertime.


What Do Swans Eat?

Swans are omnivorous birds meaning that they can consume both plant and flesh matter.  Their ability to digest different food groups results in quite a diverse diet.  While swans can consume various food types, they do prefer vegetarian foods.

Here is a quick look at all the best-loved foods of these glorious birds;


Aquatic vegetation

Swans spend most of their time in the water and they particularly enjoy eating while gliding along cool waters.  These animals are primary herbivores and they love to munch on a huge variety of aquatic vegetation they find growing under and alongside rivers and lakes.  

 80 – 90% of their food is plant-based.  Swans will eat almost any type of vegetation they find including algae, pondweed, waterweed, musk grass, coontail, wild celery, wild rice, and many others.  


Field vegetation

Swans also spend quite a bit of time on land.  They often resolve to feed on field vegetation when there isn’t much to eat in the water or on riverbeds.  These animals do need to eat more frequently than carnivores but they are not very likely to overeat.  

On land and in fields they will graze on a variety of plant matter.  Most field foods they consume are green raw vegetation.  They will consume all sorts of plant matter such as grassy greens, leafy greens, and many other plant foods they find edible.


Farm vegetation

Swans love to eat farm vegetation.  They are particularly fond of leafy greens such as salad, celery, herbs, and other fresh farm produce.  In harsh times they will also consume other types of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and others.  

Swans can also eat lettuce although some choose not to do so unless they are taught to eat lettuce. 

Many farmers teach or encourage swans to eat lettuce by warming it up a bit for them before offering it to these birds

These birds are more likely to consume warmer lettuce.


Aquatic animals

Swans prefer vegetarian foods but they are omnivores.  This means that they can consume both plant and flesh matter.  While spending lots of time in the water, these birds will catch and eat all sorts of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals they can find. 

They are not natural predators and cannot hunt for large aquatic animals but will catch and eat small animals.

Swans will catch and eat all sorts of aquatic creatures they find swimming about.  This includes fish, mollusks, frogs and others



Insects are packed with lots of vitamins and minerals which is exactly why swans often catch and eat them.  These birds usually focus on small insects they find floating on top and submerged underwater.  They will consume all sorts of insects such as worms, dragonflies, beetles, water striders, water bugs, mosquitoes, springtails, and many others.


Animal feeds

Swans can also be fed on animal feeds such as mixed chick feeds, cracked corn, and other feeds.  It is however very important to offer these dry foods inside water since too much dry food can result in choking.  It is also important to offer swans additional feed such as leafy greens so they can get all the needed nutrients.  



Swans do not just enjoy swimming.  They need a lot of water to survive.  They need lots of freshwaters to thrive in and will consume a lot of water along with their food.  

It is possible for swans to also consume saltwater.  They will drink salty seawater in harsh conditions and their bodies can successfully extract some of the salt from their bloodstreams.  It is however not possible for them to survive on salt water for a long time.

Ideally, swans need enough water to drink and swim in so they can stay hydrated and maintain a healthy and nutrient-rich diet.


Swan Diet Variations

Being omnivores, swans can have quite a few diet variations.  In harsh conditions, they will consume a huge variety of foods to survive.  

Swans can also easily be spoiled by offering them human food.  They will eat all kinds of human foods such as grain, wheat, vegetable matter, potatoes, bread, cornflakes, cookies, and many others.

While most of these human foods are perfectly safe for consumption in limited quantities, these birds shouldn’t be offered too much feed at a time.  Too much human food like bread can result in dietary problems.  


How To Feed Swans

Swans are often found in the wild but many farmers and property owners also choose to keep these animals for their natural beauty. Swans are fairly easy to feed because they are such eager eaters.  These birds need to eat a lot to stay healthy and nourished.  

To feed them, you can simply add food to a dedicated feeding area or strew foods into the water the swan is swimming in.  If these birds are hungry, they will peck at and eat the foods. Their favorite way to feed is on the top of the water and they are also happy to dive for sunken food pieces.  


How Much Do Swans Eat?

Adult swans eat about 20 – 25% of their total body weight each day.  This means that an adult swan needs to consume 9 – 12kg of food every single day.  It seems like a lot of food because these are birds.  But most vegetarian foods are not as packed in nutrients and minerals as meaty foods.  This means that they do need to consume much more food compared to carnivores to get through the day.  


What do Baby Swans Eat?

Baby swans are called cygnets.  Cygnets have different feeding requirements based on their age.  Cygnets do not eat too much during the first few days of their life.  They are kept close to the nesting area and they will start to taste leafy plants from day one.

When they are about 3 days old, they are ready for their first swim.  At this point, cygnets will start to eat tiny insects floating on the water as well as plant matter such as algae.

Cygnets can eat the same basic foods as adult swans since day 1 but many farmers do choose to offer supplementary dry feeds such as chick feeds to give them a boost.  As they grow, they will gradually increase their food consumption.  


What Do Wild Swans Eat?

Wild swans can only consume foods they find in their natural habitat.  80 – 90% of their foods consist of natural plant matter found in and around the water.   They will also eat other foods such as small fish, insects, worms, and others.   

In winter conditions, swarms of swans have been known to pest vegetable farmers by invading and feeding on these crops.


What Is The Best Food To Feed Ducks And Swans?

Swans and ducks can eat all sorts of foods but not all human foods are healthy for their digestive system.  The best food to offer these birds is natural leafy greens and vegetables.  They can eat an unlimited quantity of these foods without it affecting them negatively.

Swans and ducks can also eat some human foods such as cereal and bread.  These foods should however be offered in limited quantities because it can harm their digestive system.


Can Swans Eat Apples?

Swans can eat apples in small quantities but too many apples can cause harm.  It is also important to remove the skins from apples before offering these to swans.  Apple skins contain pesticides that can be toxic to swans.  Apple seeds are not too healthy for these birds because they contain small amounts of cyanide that can poison swans.


Should you Feed Swans Bread?

You can offer bread to swans but never offer too much.  Eating large quantities of bread can cause dietary problems for these birds

Bread also contains lots of unhealthy ingredients such as sugar, salt, and yeast that can affect a swan’s health negatively.  


Can You Feed Swans Cornflakes?

Cereal foods that do not contain much sugar and artificial colorants can be offered to swans. These are perfect for observing these marvelous animals since cereal floats on the water.  The best cereals to offer swans are cornflakes and bran flakes because these mostly consist of healthy ingredients.

It is important to take good care of the swans in your neighborhood so we won’t lose more of these beautiful animal species.  The best way to take good care of swans is by offering the right foods that won’t hurt their health.  It is also best to only offer foods in harsh conditions such as wintertime and to offer very little in summer so swans will continue to forage for natural foods.

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