Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
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General Comments This familiar Old World species is seen locally across the state at ponds, residential lakes, and other water bodies near man. However, these are feral, non-migratory populations of Mute Swans, not of concern to this annotated checklist. The only "countable" birds in the state are/were those likely migrants and winter visitors, mainly to northern coastal sites, from the formerly fairly large breeding population in the Chesapeake Bay/Delmarva Peninsula region of MD, DE, and VA. However, efforts have been made by wildlife officials to reduce or eliminate this population, such that we have seen a corresponding decrease in records in northeastern NC. As far as known, there is no record of breeding by members of this mid-Atlantic population in the state. Of course, the feral population nests locally across the state.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder; Introduced
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SE
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Visitor, essentially only to the northern coast. Rare and now declining, primarily in fall and winter, to the northern portion of the region, most frequent at Pea Island NWR; primarily late Jul - late Feb; scattered records throughout the year. Very rare to casual south of Dare; casual farther inland. The first report of potential birds from this population were three seen 16 Nov 1966 at Cape Lookout (Carteret), where there was not a feral population. In summer 2023, 6 were seen at two locations in Carteret between 10 Jun and 18 Jul. Peak counts: 6, see above in Carteret; 5, Pea Island NWR, 20 Jun 2003.
Piedmont Casual to very rare visitor, but nearly impossible to differentiate true migrants from "countable" populations north of NC from the feral birds in-state. Dates and high counts not listed because of uncertainty of true strays.
Mountains Accidental or casual visitor; again, nearly impossible to determine a true stray/migrant from feral birds that are resident in the region. Dates and high counts not listed because of uncertainty of true strays.
Finding Tips Your best bet is North Pond at Pea Island, just about the only semi-reliable spot for them. They can be seen at any time of year, though in late fall and winter, it can be difficult to pick one out among the thousands of Tundra Swans.
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Attribution LeGrand[2023-10-18], LeGrand[2023-03-01], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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