Nature watch

Those of you who have visited the canal over the last few months may have been surprised (as we were) that one of the three cygnets born this year, was white. Why? Thanks to a recent visit to the canal by the Chichester Natural History Society, we have learnt that white cygnets came originally from Poland – imported for their meat at a time when swan graced the banquets of the rich. The gene is leucystic (disturbance in pigmentation), hence the white colour; this is often found in song birds too….Not much of an advantage when you are trying to keep out of the way of predators! So, in our swans at the canal basin, at least, this gene has been passed down over several hundred years.

But the swans clearly know something is genetically wrong as it is also known that the parents of white cygnets will evict them from the family group. This appears to have happened; three days ago (31 August), while the grey cygnets (now beginning to show their white feathers) are making their first attempts at flying across the canal basin, encouraged by their parents, the white cygnet was clearly alone and unloved south of the A27 bridge. Nature can be hard!

Our thanks to Rosemary Marshall and John Arnott for this information.

And a note to photographers… the cygnets are a fantastic sight as they attempt to lift off across the water. The Trust would greatly appreciate some good photos. Can you help? But please be quick as they will now be around for long.

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