LAKELAND, Fla. — At Lake Morton in Lakeland, there’s no shortage of sightseeing. The scenic view is filled with plenty of nosy and noisy neighbors.
“It is nesting season. Spring is in the air,” said Kevin Cook, Director of Communications for the City of Lakeland.
If you’ve been to Lakeland, you know there’s one particular bird species that’s iconic to this city.
“In 1957 the City of Lakeland released a pair of swans on this lake, Lake Morton, that were gifts from Queen Elizabeth,” said Cook.
Her Majesty’s royal flock are known as the crown jewels of Lakeland.
“They’ve become a fabric of the community. It’s almost a right of passage for people, families to come down and feed the swans. They’re even so iconic, they’re the city’s logo,” said Cook.
Last year this royal crew had a rare pair of black-necked swans.
“We have a black-necked swan who last year, we only have at the time, last year we had a male and a female that’s it,” said Cook.
Unfortunately, the female swan got killed by a car last year.
“They had a nest. They had eggs and the male swan sat on his eggs for a while he was mourning his mate. Swans typically mate for life,” said Cook.
It’s very unusual for a swan to find a new mate, but to everyone’s surprise, the male swan courted not one, but two females.
“What’s interesting this year, our black-necked swan has wooed a female. They have nested in the same exact spot where he had a nest with his swan mate last year,” said Cook.
The birds are so important to this community, the city dedicates part of its budget to take care of all of them.
“We round the swans up every year, what we call our swan round-up so they have their vet checkups. We do that every year. Because the swans on this lake don’t really have any natural predators we do get an abundance of swans and we just had in 2020 our first swan auction that we’ve had probably in about five years,” said Cook.
Right now the city is working around the clock to protect the birds because it’s nesting season.
The speed limit is set at 20 mph around Lake Morton, and it’s strictly enforced to keep the birds safe, so they don’t get hit by a car.
“I know that it’s difficult to see the swans at night as well because they just don’t decide to walk down to the lake in the daylight hours. It’s whenever they need a drink of water, they’re walking back and forth from neighborhoods. Just be careful and be vigilant. If you can do the 20 miles per hour speed limit I believe we’ll be okay,” said Cook.