Widower swan takes up with newcomer who arrived recently with her mate.
There’s a new swan on the block, and it’s prompted a love triangle in the long-necked lives of several birds on Longboat Key.
Swan keeper David Novak brought in a new pair (Donald and Lydia from Wisconsin) in mid-November. They were mates and had already had viable eggs last year — great news for Novak and the beleaguered swan population on the Key, which hasn’t seen a cygnet grow to maturity since 2017.
“I’m going, ‘Wow, this is great, we’re going to have babies for sure,’” Novak said.
Meanwhile, Novak had designs to breed two lonely hearts on the island, too. Chuck, a widower, was still at the pond across from CVS, while Greta, a widow since her mate Clark died three months ago, was on the south end. The pair had been courting, but Chuck hadn’t fully taken to Greta yet and would only hang around for a few days before going back to his CVS pond home. When the new swans arrived from Wisconsin, Novak decided to take them down to the south end and get them acclimated to Longboat life down there. Well, Chuck decided to follow to check out the newbies.
“I figured Chuck would go right for the male and battle but he goes right for the female and they start doing the neck dance,” Novak said. “In other words, it was love at first sight. It was almost like they knew each other. In a few days they became a pair and now he has her at the CVS pond and Greta and the new male are in the south end. We did a bit of wife-swapping.”
So much for Novak’s John Prine-inspired naming of the new swans. He had named them after the singer’s iconic Donald and Lydia of the 60s, a pair of lonely lovers, torn asunder yet again in swan form.
“Those birds busted every conception I had,” Novak said.
And poor Greta. Typically, when swans mate it’s a solid, long-term love. Bob Knox, who has the largest flock of swans in North America and whom Novak frequently gets advice from, said he’s never seen anything like this. Chuck, Lydia and Donald did come from the same giant flock in Wisconsin.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen next,” Novak said. “I hope that time heals. I don’t think Chuck and Lydia are going to separate. What I’m waiting for is Donald and Greta to get along.”
The swans won’t start laying nests until the spring and eggs usually hatch around late April or early May. There’s time yet for romance to blossom on the south end. There are other pairs who might bear viable eggs, including Nick and Lacy, a pair that’s nested for several years but haven’t laid eggs, and Nick’s brother Bello, whom Novak may mate with a female from Islandside.
“Right now, it’s a waiting game,” Novak said. “We have a new pair, bought and paid for the Graci Swan Foundation, and I owe immensely to the people of Longboat Key in their generosity for keeping this funded and helping me continue to do what I do.”
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