When a mother swan passed away a week after giving birth to six cygnets, her mate stepped up to the plate of raising their young.
The swan family in the Charles River Esplanade in Boston became local celebrities after their adorable babies hatched. However, tragedy struck a few days later when their mother passed away on May 31 due to unknown causes.
The city’s veterinarian performed a necropsy and found that the bird had been in good body condition. According to a Boston Parks Department representative, she had no signs of external trauma.
The swan had no foreign material in her oral cavity, and the contents of her GI tract showed no evidence of non-food material. Her internal organs were also of average size and shape.
Nonprofit organization Esplanade Association announced the sad news on Twitter.
“We’re saddened to report that the mother swan of the adorable Esplanade swan family passed away last night in her nest. We want to thank @animalboston for safely removing her from the swan’s nest while the father swan sat at the nest with their cygnets tucked under his wings.”
Photographer Sylvia Zarco, who has been documenting the swan family on Instagram since April, witnessed the mama swan’s final moments.
Sylvia saw her resting and sheltering her cygnets for the past week. However, she couldn’t lift and hold up her head. The mother swan also stumbled when she tried to stand and couldn’t swim straight.
When it became clear that she couldn’t go back to her nest, her mate helped her to the opposite shore, where she eventually rested her head on the rocks so she wouldn’t drown. But by the time the Boston Animal Control got there, she had already died.
Since then, the father swan has been caring for the babies all on his own.
Photographer Matthew Raifman got the opportunity to capture a sweet moment on camera as the father swan carried three of the four cygnets on his back across the Charles River Esplanade. At the same time, a fourth hatchling trailed closely behind him.
In a June 3 Facebook post, Matthew wrote:
“Thought I’d share one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming stories in a while. Last week, six baby swans were born on the Charles. The mother died a few days later of unknown causes. One of the cygnets drowned, another had to be rescued by animal control.”
The photographer went on to say that the papa swan is “rising to the challenge” of raising the babies.
“I ran to a bridge to the lagoon just in time to take these. Hopefully, our newest swan family is in the clear, but at least all of the Greater Boston Area is pulling for them!” he concluded the post.
Matthew, a father to a 20-month-old, told WHDH that he could relate on some level to the animal as a new dad still navigating the struggles and challenges of fatherhood.
“As I was looking through the viewfinder, I was just blown away by that opportunity and that really cool experience I was having, to see this baby swan family on top of its dad,” he said.
After capturing the photo, he immediately called his wife and said it was the best picture he has ever photographed.
Here’s a short clip of the father swan carrying his babies on his back.
— Anna Meiler (@AnnaMeiler) June 4, 2021
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