Water-Related News

36th Lakeland swan roundup pits man, machine against birds

Government workers with nets, power boats and a fair amount of hand-eye coordination temporarily rid Lake Morton of its swan population Tuesday morning.

The 80 catches were exciting moments for both fowl and human, the expertise of the boat crews was evident in the hot-rod race toward their target followed by a rapid swoop, net outreached. Ideally, it's a catch followed by a short struggle into the cage onboard the skiff.

A few birds managed to slip the net, but not for long, settling down once they realized the jig was up and accepting their fate in cages along the shore with the other jailbirds. Perhaps lost in the interspecies communication, panicked flapping and the din of an outboard motor was the fact that it was for the swans' own good.

This is the 36th year the iconic flock will be given thorough medical examinations before being returned to their lives on the lake. Dr. Patricia Mattson of Companion Animal Hospital donates her time and expertise to perform the examinations.

Lakeland spends about $10,000 a year feeding and caring for the flock through its Parks and Recreation Department. The annual swan roundup started in 1980 and was originally performed by W.G. Gardner.

A likely diagnosis: these birds have a diet that would make Dr. Robert Atkins get the vapors: high in white bread — not a natural source of nutrition for swans — and low on calcium. Too many carbs and too little calcium can mean the swans lay fewer eggs and put on the pounds. And it's not likely the chubby swans have been hitting the Southgate Publix bread aisle. Last year, the city installed swan chow dispensers where a quarter can delight the birds without the humans taking a hit to their eco consciences.