Father Swan Carries All of his Babies on Back after They Lose their Mom

“He’s just a great, great father to them. It’s very adorable.”

Over the past year, swans have become a frequent sight at the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, Massachusetts. And one swan couple decided the park’s lagoon was the perfect place to raise a family.

“In early April, we first noticed they had a nest along the pillars by the lagoon,” Emma Feeney, marketing and events coordinator for the Esplanade Association, told The Dodo. “Then shortly after, we saw that the female swan had begun to lay eggs. A total of nine eggs had been laid by early May, and about 10 days ago the cygnets began hatching.”

Bird and wildlife lovers gathered around the nest to watch as seven cygnets hatched and were cared for by their doting parents.

“They’ve kind of become celebrities in Boston over the past few weeks,” Feeney said.

Swan couples, who typically mate for life, share parental duties during their babies’ first few weeks, taking turns feeding, protecting and keeping their cygnets warm. However, tragedy struck the Charles River last Monday, when the mother swan fell ill and passed away. 

Sylvia J. Zarco was on the banks of the Charles River that night observing the swan family, when she realized something was wrong with the mom.

“She was resting, sheltering her cygnets like the great mom she’s been for the past week. But she couldn’t lift and hold up her head. She stumbled when she stood, couldn’t swim straight and whatever she did, she only propelled herself backwards,” Zarco wrote on Facebook. “Dad wouldn’t leave her. When the cygnets went for a swim, you could see how torn he was between staying with and encouraging his mate and protecting their young.”

“By the time Boston Animal Control (thank you Brad) could come to her aid, she had already died,” Zarco added. “But Dad must have known that already for even though he sat across the lagoon from where she lay, every time before when it looked like someone or something was endangering her, he’d charge across the water to fiercely protect her. But when Brad approached her, picked her up out of the water, wrapped her gently in a blanket, Dad did not move. He calmly sat at the nest with their cygnets safely tucked under his wings.”

Swan dad snuggles his babies

The city of Boston’s veterinarian examined the wild mother swan, and couldn’t determine a cause of death.

“The swan’s death broke many of the hearts of the community here in Boston, where we see people visiting the swans’ nest on a daily basis — it’s become part of their daily routine,” Feeney said. 

Without his mate, the male swan has jumped into his role as a single father, doing everything he can to raise his babies right.

“They seem to be doing well,” Feeney said. “You can spot them in the esplanade lagoon swimming together, with some of the babies riding along on his back.”

“Geese will swim by them and you can tell that the papa swan is in full force, protecting the cygnets,” She added. “You can tell that he’s just a great, great father to them. It’s very adorable.”

Thanks to their caring dad, the seven cygnets will have an excellent chance at growing up strong and finding mates of their own one day. And, hopefully, in the years to come, they too will return to the Charles River to start families of their own.

But, for now, the swan dad is giving the people of Boston someone to root for: “They’ve been through so much, but they seem so strong,” Feeney said.

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