Fast Growing Cygnets

These cygnets are less than two weeks old and weigh no more than two pounds. Within the next three months they will have grown a full set of feathers and weigh more than 20 pounds. The energy required to fuel such growth is huge. Not only do the young need lots of calories, they require significant amounts of protein to build their muscles and feathers. While the adults don’t feed their young they do make it easier for them to find the nutrition they require. The plume of mud you see in front of the middle cygnet has been produced by its parent, in the background. The small waves coming off the adult are the due to her paddling her large webbed feet back and forth, stirring up the bottom sediments and bringing vegetation and protein-rich invertebrates to the surface. The cygnet on the left is eating some aquatic vegetation that was stirred up off the bottom and came to the surface. The parents will continue helping their young in this way until they’ve grown large enough to use their long necks to reach the bottom on their own.