“getting to know all about you” — that’s what we often see in the synchronized displays of paired birds that mate for life. It’s more commonly seen in the spring resurgence of pre-breeding behaviors, but often, mated pairs renew their bond in the fall before migrating to warmer climates with open water.
Trumpeter Swans pairs exhibited their neck bowing and chest-to-chest-wing flap and trumpet greetings with each other on Lake Vadnais yesterday with gusto.
Neck bowing behavior, up and down, from fully extended to completely bowed, repeated several times, both while swimming in parallel and while facing each other.
Because these birds often don’t breed until they are 4-6 years old, cementing their partnership early is integral to their eventual breeding success, in defending their nest territory as well as protecting their offspring, which single individuals cannot do alone. Their synchronized neck bowing behaviors occasionally escalated to more vigorous displays of wing flapping and chest bumping (kind of remniscent of football players in the end zone after a touchdown).
Muted trumeting accompanied the wing flap face-off between these partners.
But then, one swan seemed to be trying out a couple of different partners as it first performed the neck bowing sequence with one individual and then took-off flying and pursued another individual, bowing and wing-flapping with it, and then eventually settling down to feed side by side. I wonder if this is the equivalent of swan dating?
Swan in the lead with partner #1, performing the head bowing behavior as they swim
Suddenly the lead swan takes off, trumpeting, chasing another swan into flight. Huge webbed feet paddling against the surface of the water help these large-bodied birds get aloft.
Once landed in the same area, vigorous wing-flapping and trumpeting occurs for several seconds, following by neck bows, and finally feeding side by side.
I might have thought this was one male chasing another, except for the behavior that followed.
Just another day in the lives of the Trumpeter Swans, even if confusing to us human observers.