Icy stand-off between 'divorced' swans and partners
Published 25/01/2010 | 05:00
Bumping into the ex at a gathering, especially if you have your new partner with you, is not a social problem that famously faithful swans often experience.
But experts at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge in England have witnessed a rare 'divorce' between two Bewick's swans -- with both parties bringing their new partners to winter at the site.
It is only the second time in more than 4,000 pairs of Bewick's swans studied during 40 years at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, that a separation has been recorded. It is not unheard of for the birds, which usually mate for life, to find a new mate, but it tends to be because one of the pair has died.
So when male swan Sarindi turned up in the annual migration from Arctic Russia without his partner of two years, Saruni, and with a new female -- named Sarind -- in tow, conservationists feared the worst for Saruni.
But shortly afterwards, Saruni arrived at the wetlands site with a new mate, Surune.
And after observing them, the experts were confident the old relationship had ended and new ones had begun. Julia Newth, wildlife health research officer at Slimbridge, said the "bizarre" situation had taken staff by surprise.
She said swans tended to have "real loyalties to one another" and long partnerships.
"As long as they are both still alive, they will try to stay together," she said.
In this case, however, both swans and their new partners are over-wintering on the lake at Slimbridge and things are a little awkward. Ms Newth said the old pair had not acknowledged each other with any signs of recognition or greeting.