PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A large collection of swans in a river along the Providence coastline has caught the attention of passersby.
Dozens upon dozens of swans have been seen swimming in the waters off River Drive in recent weeks.
Large groups of swans, sometimes called a ballet, are not unusual to see this time of year, but this assemblage of mute swans in the Seekonk River has stopped people in their tracks.
12 News spoke with Maureen Robbins, an amateur bird watcher, who was walking along River Road with her friend. She has seen large groups of swans like this before.
“Sometimes it’s 100 or more, and I know because I stood there and counted to 100,” Robbins said.
Peter Paton, of the Department of Natural Resources Science at the University of Rhode Island, said during the winter months, the swans are usually on the move.
“When things freeze in the inland areas, they tend to move to Narragansett Bay … and congregate,” Paton said.
Lauren Parmelee, the senior director of Education of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, tells 12 News when the birds aren’t breeding, “they’ll flock up together for safety and because there are more eyes to find food.”
The majority of the swans here are already coupled, but some could still be in search of a mate.
“Sometimes, there are so many here that I would equate it to something like match.com,” Robbins said. “It’s kind of like swan speed dating.”
Parmelee said the swans should be leaving soon.
“You know, they mate for life. As pairs, they should be moving on soon and establishing their nesting territory,” Parmelee explained.
These swans have been foraging for food, coincidentally, near Swan Point, but that area of Providence was not named for the mute swans since they’re not native to Rhode Island or the United States.
European royalty would domesticate the mute swans. They were introduced to North America in the 1800s.
“The first record of mute swans in RI was off of Block Island in 1923, then on the mainland in 1930,” Paton said.
Wildlife experts see these swans as a nuisance because they are very territorial and will eat the food of native birds, eating 8-to-10 pounds of vegetation per day.
“They are beautiful, but don’t mess with them … because they are tougher than you are,” Parmelee said.
Feeding the swans, or any waterfowl for that matter, is discouraged because crackers, bread and popcorn are not good for the birds.