Vet helps smallest cygnets overcome parasite problem

Swan Notes

Swan Notes

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For the last few weeks we have been very concerned about our two smallest cygnets. They have not been gaining weight as they should and are way behind the others in size.

They are also not feathering up as much as the others, they are still very ‘downy’ and baby-like.

They came in from the Shiremoor area after being found wandering by themselves with no sign of parents. We suspected they must have come from one of the many ponds and lakes in the vicinity.

They were brought in on 5th September, very small and underweight. The smallest one just 1.9k, they were wormed and checked over before being introduced to the other orphan cygnets.

As our largest cygnets were weighing in at 6k at the time we thought perhaps they were being bullied a bit, perhaps not being able to get to the food buckets when they did not put on the grams they should have done. They were separated from the rest but were able to see the others through the fence. They were not eating enough although we were giving them plenty. When we weighed them at the end of October the smaller one weighed just 2.5k.

The vet came and took blood tests and we were hoping something would show up but the results came back showing no abnormalities.

David was not to be beaten so he contacted the Slimbridge swan experts and found out that this year has been particularly bad for Acuaria. They had several cygnets that were so badly affected by these parasites that they had to be put to sleep.

Acuaria is a parasite which spends part of its life cycle in Daphnia (water fleas) these can then affect a bird that ingests the daphnia. Swans and cygnets would do this when eating water weed around which the daphnia lived.

The hot weather this year has meant that Acuaria has been much more of a problem than recent years. The parasite burrows into the flesh of the gizzard of the bird causing swelling which means the bird cannot eat and thrive.

David came in and gave all the cygnets an injection which should kill off the parasites.

These two cygnets were the only ones to come from ponds and they are the only two not to have grown so it did seem hopeful. The other birds were treated just as a precaution.

That was early November and when we weighed the birds today Kay said she could tell when they were picked up that they had put on a pound or two (500-100g) and they had. Little green ring –the smallest bird- now weighs 3.5k. Still much smaller than the biggest, which comes in at over 8k, but a big improvement. They are now tucking into their food with gusto. We are now watching for the feathers to grow. We are thrilled that the problem seems to have been solved. Great work David.

I must thank McCreath Simpson and Prentice for their donation of grain. Delivered to the bins too. Very useful when we have so many cygnets.