“Atticus” The Swan Cares For His Babies After Mate’s Passing

Bird lovers in Boston were thrilled this May when the many swans that nest in the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts welcomed their newborn chicks (called cygnets by those in the know) into the world, according to NBC Boston.

That elation has turned to sadness, however, for one swan family mourning the loss of their own. Only weeks after giving birth to her four cygnets, one mother swan passed away.

“She was resting, sheltering her cygnets like the great mom’s she’s been for the past week. But she couldn’t lift and hold up her head. She stumbled when she stood, couldn’t swim straight and whatever she did, she only propelled herself backwards. [The] Dad wouldn’t leave her,” wrote photographer Sylvia J. Zarco on Facebook.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

She died shortly after, and her mate huddled with her for a short time. He guarded her body until Boston Animal Control arrived, wrapped her in a blanket, and took her away.

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He then carried their newborns away, back to their nest. The Boston Globe later reported that she had passed of unknown causes.

Swans, who mate for life, often share parenting duties. This family was no different, with both Mom and Dad taking turns carrying their cygnets across the water in a beautiful glide. Now alone, Dad carries his cygnets on his back and protects them with his life. This parenting behavior is more common in swans than in some species (like tigers), but still a remarkable display of care and affection.

The swan, who residents have named Atticus after widower Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, is a fixture at the Charles River and shows “nothing but love” to his kids, according to the Esplanade Association, which cares for the Charles River and its ecosystem. He was recently seen swimming with his cygnets on Father’s Day — the family looks healthy and well cared for.

After tragically losing his mate and the mother of his children, this swan has been through more than enough pain. Fortunately, the wonderful community of wildlife watchers and bird lovers in Boston is cheering him on.

See more from Atticus and his cygnets below, from CBS Boston:

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