I saw something last Friday afternoon that I hope never to see again – two male swans fighting, almost to the death.
I had just finished feeding seed to the water birds and pigeons when the battle commenced. I presume the second male had made a move towards the mate of the first, rather than it being a dispute over territory. This happened on Roath Park Lake in Cardiff, where the swans seem to move freely all around the lake and only get truly territorial in the mating season, which this was not.
These males were vicious, flapping their broad strong wings at each other, using their necks to wrestle and push, biting each other’s wing feathers. At first I was intrigued and took quite a lot of photos but, as the fight continued and neither swan was prepared to give way, I became concerned.
The female and this year’s two cygnets also grew more and more agitated. Both the female and one of the cygnets chased away other swans that came close, and the female tried to intervene but just got battered by the flapping wings of the males.
After twenty minutes or so, it was obvious both swans were getting weary but one, the interloper, was definitely weakening more. The dominant male tried to climb onto the back of the weaker bird, to push it under the water, and grabbed its neck, holding its head under the water to drown it.
By this stage a small crowd of people had gathered and we were all rather shocked and becoming increasingly horrified by what was happening. Luckily, the swans were very close to the edge of the lake where there is a concrete pavement and one rather brave man managed to grab the neck of the dominant swan and held on until the other male could get some air and recover enough to swim away. If it hadn’t been for his actions, the weaker swan would definitely have drowned. I know this is a natural occurrence, this is how Nature operates, but it was still really shocking to see such violence play out in what is usually such a calm and peaceful setting.