Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Swans Behavior toward Offspring
Name: Fred
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A


Question:
We have a pair of what I believe are trumpet swans that live in a pond behind our yard. Every year they have a handful of babies and every year they slowly disappear. Last year one survived but it was the first one ever in about seven years. Today I witnessed the most unusual behavior, the pair have one baby left and it was about four weeks old and they protect like a pair of parents, but sometime this afternoon we watched the mother abuse her baby by smacking it with her wings, plucking it with her beak and stepping on it with her feet. The father then would sit on top of it until it wouldn't come up. Eventually the baby was so wounded it collapsed and drowned in the pond. My question is, why would the parents kill their baby?


Replies:
The only answer I can give you is that adult birds will (rarely) kill their offspring if food is scarce so that the adults can survive to breed another year. Also, if the young have disabilities or are unhealthy they will be left or killed since they would not be able to survive anyway.

Grace Fields


Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory