First successful breeding of Mute swans in Yili, China

Blog post by Ma Ming

For the first time in the past 50 years, the successful breeding of mute swans has been recorded in the Yili area of Xinjiang.

I started as a researcher more than 30 years ago on the swans in the Bayinbulak nature reserve. Recently, I have seen a lot of stories about mute swans (Cygnus olor) on the Internet and within my circle of friends. Two families of mute swans appeared in the wetland of Fangcao Lake in the Yili River. In July, for the first time, we recorded the successful growth of seven chicks from one of the natural breeding families.

Recently, a family of nine mute swans appeared in the wetland of Fangcao Lake in Yili River, Xinjiang. (Photo by Ma Ming)

In the past, we only knew of one well known wintering place for mute swans on the Yili River, which was the Swan Spring Park in the Wetland of Yamadu Yingtamu Xiaheleke Village in Yili (Yining). Luoli Baji is a small fishpond, which is moistened by geothermal heat and hot springs and does not freeze. The number of wintering swans increased to two to three hundred (including near the watershed).

As far as I know, Yingtamu should be the largest and most concentrated wintering ground in China, and it is unheard of for swans to be able to stay and reproduce.

Indeed, it is not easy for mute swans to stay and breed near the urban area of Yining without being harassed.

Why do you say this? I remember that the mute swans successfully reproduced naturally in Lake Aibi a few years ago, but the young birds were quickly captured for “Rescue” and to “Protect”.

In 1996, we investigated the breeding population of mute swans in Wuliangsuhai, Inner Mongolia, and the number was very small. Later, Liu Ning, who assisted Science and Technology Film Studio and CCTV-9, filmed the Swan series, and seemed to have won an award. Many years ago, we also recorded and discovered a breeding colony of mute swans in Ulungu Lake, and the success rate of young birds was very low.

Mute swan chicks in the Fangcao Lake Wetland of the Yili River. (Photo by Ma Ming)

Mute swans often move in pairs or in families, feeding on aquatic plants and other aquatic organisms. In Xinjiang, sometimes large flocks (such as Yining Yingtamu populations) are also integrated, especially during winter and molt. (Photo by Ma Ming)

More images of the swans can be found in the full blog post by Ma Ming here.