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To be born in a duck's nest is of no consequence to a bird,
if it is hatched from a swan's egg.
Hans Christian Andersen

The whooper is a swan of superlatives, the 747 of the avian world. She is the largest and most numerous, and enjoys the widest range of her elegant sorority of sisters which includes the tundra, trumpeter, and black swans. That range stretches across half the northern globe, from Iceland to the Aleutians.

By turns elegant in flight, pensive in repose, and raucous in a crowd, this is waterfowl that inspires music, as in Swan Lake. These monarchs of the sky are a stately society with an attitude to boot. It's as if they own the airways and mirrored lakes of the world with their graceful glide and "no splash" landings. A perfect 10 every time.

But there's another side to the grace of Swan Lake. Takeoff is anything but elegant. In fact it is laborious if not downright clumsy, the frenetic slapping of webbed feet to water and heavy wings flailing the air, until mercifully there is liftoff. And loveliness doesn't preclude aggressiveness. The comely S curve of her neck can uncoil like a snake at any territorial intrusion. This beak jousting can be bloody, and even deadly.

© Danny Kimberlin 2015