What is Swan Sanctuary


The Importance of Wetlands

Dr. William Sladen referred to swans as wetland ambassadors. Wetlands provide a vital component to ecology, as they provide food and breeding grounds for numerous species. One source states that the loss of wetlands is equal to approximately seven football fields every hour! This astronomical loss is due to farming, urban sprawl, and the resulting flooding that occurs during torrential storms. Nearly three quarters of migrating birds and waterfowl depend on wetlands for their survival, and now nearly half of those species are endangered due to loss of this essential habitat. It is only through diligent and committed efforts that we can begin to restore what has been lost. Pond owners who choose to keep swans can assist in the restoration by planting native plants around their ponds and preserving natural areas. The presence of swans attracts other waterfowl. Swans can also be used to control invasive pond weeds since these plants provide the bulk of their diet.

Captive Swans

Swans are grazers, meaning they must eat every couple of hours. In order to compensate for the limited grazing range of swans in captivity, it is necessary to supplement their diet with corn and/or food pellets, especially during the winter or at other times when naturally occurring SAV(sub-emergent aquatic vegetation) becomes depleted. It is very important that captive swans have some type of island or raft in the pond so that they have a means to escape predators. Captive swans must also rely on their keepers for maintaining the cleanliness and habitability of their environment. Moldy food and feeders can cause a preliminary fungal infection, which can later develop into a more serious lung infection known as aspergillosis. Habitat is the most important consideration for those considering swan stewardship. Unlike their wild cousins, captive swans are either pinioned or wing clipped, rendering them flightless. Their inability to fly makes them dependent on their human guardians and greatly diminishes their chance of survival on their own.

Habitat Assessment

Following is a list of important considerations for potential swan landlords. A more detailed summary may be found in Swan Sanctuary's Guide to Responsible Swan Stewardship. (Click on link to purchase)


Riparian Buffer

It is higly recommended that pond owners maintain a 10 to 15 foot area or more, of un-mowed native grasses, shrubs and flowering plants around their ponds, and also along streams flowing into their ponds. This will help to reduce runoff and aid in maintaining the purity of the water. Herbicides and pesticides should not be used anywhere near a swan habitat.

Native Plants

Growing native flora species in and around your pond encourages native fauna and provides food and shelter for a multitude of animal species.


Fishing in a pond where swans are living is discouraged. The use of lead sinkers is strictly forbidden, as the accidental ingestion of the lead will cause lead poisoning in swans, resulting in a slow and painful death.


Swan owners agree to refrain from hunting on or near a pond inhabited by swans. This would cause undue stress, not to mention the possibility of accidently shooting the swan. Lead shot is deadly to swans, when inadvertently ingested.


It is recommended that dogs be restricted from any area where swans are kept. Swans will view these animals as they would any other canine predator such as a fox or coyote.

Rafts or Islands

The placement of an island or a raft is encouraged to provide swans a safe place to escape predators, especially during winter. It should be located in an area of open water.

Aerators, Bubblers or Deicers

It is important to maintain an area of open water in winter for the swans. The use of some type of deicer must be implemented during months when ponds may freeze over.


Educating One Pond Owner at a Time