Ol’ Blue Eyes
Recently, one of the very kind people who regularly feed our resident swan, Dominic Nesta, pointed out that Mr. Swan is unusual for his blue eyes. I was surprised by his comment because I’ve only ever filmed Mr. Swan, his deceased mate, and their offspring up close, and they all have (had) blue eyes. Aren’t all Mute Swans blue-eyed I wondered? After looking at hundreds of photos on Google images and reading dozens of descriptions, Mute Swans eyes appear as, and are always described as, black, whether they are the English Mute Swan or the Polish variant.
Mr. Swan is of the Polish kind. Polish Mute Swans are rarer, mostly pure white, and with pinkish gray feet, as opposed to the English sorts, which have black feet and legs. Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Duckling was perhaps logically written with the English Mute Swan cygnet in mind, which are typically dressed in a mottled gray downy coat. Polish Mute Swan cygnets are pure white. Until I learned the difference I wondered how there could ever be such a story as the Ugly Duckling because again, I had only ever seen Mr. Swan’s offspring, which have always been exceptionally beautiful perfect little balls of fluffy white down (gray cygnets aren’t ugly either, IMO).
A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness (leucism). Polish Mute Swans were given their name when in 1800 they were introduced to London from the Polish coast on the Baltic Sea. They were at first thought to be a new species because of their unchanging color form (Cygnus immutabilis).
Our Mr. Swan is extraordinary not only for his long-lived life of well over twenty years, but also for his sapphire blue eye color.
Help needed from our readers–do you have a pair of swans in your area? If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very kindly.