The Mute Swan is by far one of the most visible large birds on Lac Neuchatel. Some reside year round in more popular areas like Estavayer-le-lac where people tend to feed them on their daily walks. During the winter months they assemble in large groups with wading ducks waiting for a generous handout of food.
As spring advances the herd thins out and disperses around the lake where natural sources of food become more abundant. Couples start forming and nesting areas are enforced.
The Mute Swans, especially the year round residents, take no shame in begging for food and disturbing the first wave of picnicking beach goers. Most people can’t differentiate a mooching Swan from an aggressive Swan defending it’s territory. Stories of killer Swans flood the ears of locals as most people fear these birds.
Swans will easily hiss at people and show a great intolerance for dogs, especially when protecting their Young. Swans rarely attack people, they tend to try and intimidate while their mate brings their young to safety.
In June I was sitting on the shores of Lac de Genève (Lac Leman) in Montreux when a female approached me with her seven chicks. They all came out of the water and remained at approximately one meter (3 feet) from me. I spent half an hour photographing them with very little concern from the mother. I got carried away and didn’t keep an eye out for daddy. Eventually they all got a little agitated. I turned around to see daddy in the water right behind me. We were at eye level and once we made eye contact he became a little aggressive, hissing and pecking with no contact. The female rounded up her chicks and they all headed for the water. Once at a safe distance the male retreated behind the female with no further signs of aggression.