Mute Swan Cygnus olor numbers have recently increased in a dramatic fashion in Western Europe and in North America, suggesting there could be potential consequences for the rest of the waterbird community. Breeding Mute Swan pairs may behave territorially towards other waterbirds, taking advantage of their larger size, and hence cause concern regarding their potential effects on waterbird communities. We studied how the within-site distributions of breeding Mute Swans and other waterbirds were related to each other, in order to assess if there is support to the assertion that breeding Mute Swans may affect the distribution of the other waterfowl within waterbodies. We mapped waterbird and swan distribution within fishponds during the Mute Swan breeding period. Relying on spatial point pattern analysis, our first finding is that breeding Mute Swans were located in the vicinity of the other waterbirds, using the same area within fishpond. Waterbirds do not completely desert the area used by breeding swan pairs within a waterbody, hence not supporting the claim that Mute Swans dislodge the other species. If an exclusion process by Mute Swan breeding pairs towards waterbirds exists, it is not strong enough to generate deserted areas by waterbirds around breeding Mute Swans. Our second finding is that breeding Mute Swans were not located where the density probability function for waterbird presence was the greatest within a fishpond, i.e. breeding Mute Swans were not located in the centre of groups formed by other waterbirds within each fishponds. This may indicate slightly different micro-habitat preferences or use within fishponds, or could indicate the potential occurrence of interactions. In conclusion, these results question whether the increasing Mute Swan populations actually directly threaten the other waterbird communities in such habitats, and require population control as is often claimed.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2