Many cygnets (baby swans) come into care. This story is about Natalie ~ who was named after Natalie Portman, from the film The Black Swan!
Natalie was handed into a vet clinic by a member of the public. The member of the public told the vet that Natalie was found alone by the side of the road. Finding a cygnet alone, near a road is unusual since swans are dedicated and fierce protectors of their young. The vet contacted me and I took Natalie into care. Many people who find wildlife believe that they can raise the animals themselves. They don’t realize that it’s against the law in Canberra to keep wildlife for longer than 48 hours unless they are a registered wildlife carer. They also don’t understand that swans need specialized care to avoid problems such as imprinting, bumble foot and angel wing ~ conditions that can reduce the animal’s chance of release back into the wild.
Natalie was a little fluff ball! She ate instinctively and would seek me out as a source of love and warmth. The bond formed with waterfowl is a different kind of bond. They need love and warmth but are generally less tactile then marsupials. Natalie considered me to be mum, she would respond to my voice, come to me for warmth but she never liked to be touched or held.
Natalie grew very quickly. She lived inside in a special enclosure with a heat source to keep her warm, especially after swimming. If Natalie was living in the wild, she would have the large body of her parents to keep her warm, as both male and female swans care for the cygnets. Since Natalie was in care, I needed to create similar conditions for her to grow. After a few weeks, Natalie was able to enjoy some time outdoors in the sunshine.
Natalie continued to thrive! Fresh food, a water source, sunshine, love and warmth ~ her development was delightful to be part of. Over a couple of weeks she changed from a fluff ball to light grey.
Once Natalie was big enough, she was able to leave the comfort of the indoors and spend more time outside in a safe and supervised space. I would carry her food, so Natalie learnt to navigate the steps on her own.
Each night, however, Natalie came back inside where it was warm. Navigating the stairs back inside was a little more challenging!
Sometimes swimming even presented a challenge!
Before I knew it, my grey swan was turning black! Natalie continued to grow and change! She no longer required a heat source and moved permanently outside.
Natalie even helped with babysitting when two wombat joeys came to stay while their carer went away!
After three months in care, Natalie was a swan! No longer a fluff ball – but a beautiful juvenile swan!
We even practised our take off for flying! Encouraging Natalie to flap her wings helps her develop wing strength and the coordination she needs for take off! Swans require a long run to enable lift off from land or water since they have such large bodies. All this practise helps prepares Natalie for life in the wild.
Natalie and I enjoyed a swim after our flight test! I love the way she ’talks’ to me!
After months in care, Natalie can locate food, seek water for protection and is becoming strong enough to fly. The day will soon come that she is ready to be released!
Please do not feed wildlife – especially swans! Feeding swans (and other waterbirds) pollutes the water – their home. The food given by people floats on the surface of the water which means that swans do not use their natural feed position, plunging their head under water, to eat. Feeding swans also makes them less vary of humans and I have seen the deliberate and horrific injuries inflicted on wildlife by some members of the public. So please, if you love our wildlife, watch them, marvel at their beauty, but please leave them in peace to do what comes naturally to them. Animals do so much better without us in their way.
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