Prospect Park Lake has two swan families, which, until recently, shared the 60-acre pond in harmony. Once they both hatched cygnets this year, though, everything went egg-shaped. The couple that traditionally occupies the southern portion of the lake had three (seemingly) male baby swans. The northern couple had three cygnets also, but two died of unknown causes. As soon as the cygnets got big enough to mean business, the southern family started ganging up on the northern one. From the Times:
The southern father — wings beating, back hunched and neck extended — streaks across the lake with a wake behind him and repeatedly jumps on members of the other family. It looks as if he’s trying to drown them. Sometimes he has the help of the mother and their offspring.
That seems intense.
Not as intense, however, as what happened after people in the park started witnessing these attacks. They got involved. People like Anne-Katrin Titze and Ed Bahlman have driven every day from their homes to fight back:
"It was just, seeing the little one fly and seeing this attack — I couldn’t forget that,” said Ms. Titze, who teaches literature at Hunter College. “It was so awful.” Since then, Ms. Titze and Mr. Bahlman said, they have traveled 45 minutes from their home in Sunset Park nearly every day, spending hours trying to protect the family under siege. And they are not alone in their intervention: the front line of the swan war forms on the northern side of the Audubon Center. There, they and others step in between the swans and chase away the aggressors. When the aggressors drive the other family 50 yards from the water, the onlookers bring them cups of water, hoping to keep them from becoming dehydrated. Over the weekend, Mr. Bahlman and others wrestled with the swans and tried to move them to a smaller lake across a path. But one broke free, returning to the first lake, and they abandoned the effort.
Park rangers won't help because this is simply an example of nature taking its course, and the swans are naturally territorial. There is a video of all of this over on the Times City Room blog. You must watch it. Particularly to watch the victim family's sygnet, "Honey Bear," "living it up" with some clover and a couple of Tupperware containers full of water.
Swans of Prospect Park Go From Elegant to Murderous [City Room/NYT]