Today, the descendants of royal swans, gifted by Queen Elizabeth for Canada’s centennial, swim and forage along the Rideau River from May to November. They spend the winter at the city’s Leitrim Nursery. Ottawa’s royal swans cannot fly because their wings have been pinioned, meaning the primary feathers on one wing have been permanently clipped so the birds don’t migrate and disturb native North American species. The black swan is a descendant of a few Australian black swans donated by the Montreal zoo in 1974. The swans are housed inside for the winter because when the Rideau freezes there isn’t sufficient open water which is required for feeding. With limited winter facilities, a number of the swans have had to be given away. Between that and natural attrition the numbers rise and fall over time. In the last few years, I have seen a few pairs of royal swans but I have only ever seen a single black swan. I happened upon these swans while kayaking on the Rideau River during the summer of 2013.
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