New research has shown that swans will sacrifice their rest time in order to compete for the best food spots.
Scientists have studied the energy and time use of whooper and mute swans in order to understand their behaviour.
They observed four behaviours: aggression, foraging and maintenance (preening and cleaning feathers, oiling feathers, and resting). They found a “tradeoff” between aggression & rest. This means that aggression can be achieved at the expense or rest.
The study, by the University of Exeter and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), could help managers of nature reserves design habitats that reduce the need for aggression.
Dr Paul Rose of the University of Exeter, WWT said that these swans can be aggressive if they have to compete for food resources.
“Our findings suggest that this requires a compromise, and that both species decrease resting times to allow for aggression.
“This was the best trade-off that we could find, but there was also a tradeoff between resting and foraging for both species.
“However there was no trade-off between certain behaviours such as aggression or foraging and aggression and maintenance.”
The swans could be viewed live from a webcam located at WWT Caerlaverock nature park in Scotland.
Whooper swans migrate and are observed at Caerlaverock during winter.
Dr Rose explained that mute swans can live there year-round, which means they are more flexible in their behavior. This is because they don’t need to store fat as they migrate.
Dr Rose stated that by providing sufficient foraging areas for birds, we can reduce aggression around desired feeding spots and give them more rest.
“This will help to ensure non-migratory birds don’t ‘pushout’ migratory animals when they mix in different wintering areas.
“Our study also shows how remote data can be used for fundamental questions in behavioral research.”
WWT’s Dr Kevin Wood stated: “At WWT, we get lots of questions about the aggressiveness and swans.
“This study helps us understand how swans behave when they are involved in disputes.”