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Longboat Key Kiwanis Club shares swan stories

"The Swan Guy" David Novak spoke at the Kiwanis Club meeting on March 2 at the Lazy Lobster.

David Novak prepares to release Chuck in November 2022.
David Novak prepares to release Chuck in November 2022.
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It’s true you learn something new every day. At the latest Kiwanis Club meeting, members learned how to catch a swan. 

“Chase them out of the water. Get them on land. Run them down to where you exhaust them. Get on top of them — don’t break anything when you get on top of them — and grab the neck,” said David Novak. 

Also, be careful the wings are tucked in when you hug them from behind and tilt them up so their feet can’t reach you. Novak raised his forearms to show the audience the scars of his experience. For the last two decades, he’s been caring for Longboat Key’s royal flock of swans, who live on the Longboat Key Club's golf courses and waterways.   

When Michael Garey introduced him at the meeting, he said two words came to mind to describe Novak: dedication and commitment. 

Ed Krepela, Lynn Larson, Chris Sachs, David Novak, Jim Whitman and Michael Garey
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

In addition to being the island’s unofficial swan keeper, Novak is also a veteran and an entrepreneur. He received a purple heart for his service in Vietnam, but has no prior avian experience. Yet he checks on his “kids” daily. Right now, he’s feeding them a supplement that’s given to laying hens to produce stronger eggshells. 

Unfortunately, a perfectly manicured golf course isn’t the ideal habitat for swans, so it takes some work to keep them happy, healthy and breeding. Novak had no idea what he was getting himself into when he bought the house next to Alan Stone in 2003 but has completely embraced his now moniker, “The Swan Guy.” 

“It’s kind of like, once you start something,” Novak said, “you made your bed. You’ve got to lie in it.” 

David Novak feeds Chuck and Greta in May 2022.

Beyond supplementing their diet, Novak gathers nest supplies and performs the pinions himself. A pinion is a procedure to remove the flight feathers. By clipping the tip of one wing, the swan is left unharmed and off balance. The birds are also kept safe from inland predators, mainly alligators.  

Members had their hands up for questions following Novak’s presentation. When are the next cygnets due? By May 1. If not Longboat Key, where is a swan’s natural habitat? Eastern Europe. What about inbreeding? It doesn’t typically cause problems in birds. Why does the state require that one wing be clipped?  The swan’s territorial nature lands them in the same category as a python — invasive. 

The Kiwanis Club is also asking for new members. The next meeting will be held 5 p.m. on March 16 at The Paradise Center.  



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is the community reporter for Longboat Key and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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