Date of Award
Master of Science
Mute swans (Cygnus olor), an exotic species of waterfowl, have been found to negatively impact native waterbirds and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities in the Chesapeake Bay and lower Great Lakes. Mute swans were first recorded in Illinois in 1971 and their population is small, but growing. In 2008-09, I studied mute swans in central Illinois to investigate whether they negatively impacted waterbirds through aggressive actions and SAV through over-grazing. I also estimated mute swan territory size to estimate potential habitat exclusion and population growth potential. Mute swan territory size averaged 7.0 ha, allowing the current population of approximately 60 breeding pairs to increase to over 125 pairs. I did not find that mute swans reduced above-ground SAV, although I did find that below-ground biomass was reduced where mute swans fed freely. Mute swan aggression was most frequent in early spring and decreasing throughout the breeding season. Most waterbirds were found just as close or closer to mute swans as to control points, although gadwall (Anas strepera) were found farther away perhaps suggesting either avoidance or exclusion. As mute swans become more abundant in Illinois, further monitoring is necessary to prevent significant negative impacts to wetlands and waterbirds.
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