One of the most beautiful places in Orlando, in my humble opinion, is Lake Eola Park. The iconic fountain was voted as one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city when a survey was conducted by the Orlando Expressway Authority. The second most recognizable icons are Lake Eola’s beautiful swans.
Lake Eola is home to five of the seven varieties of swans in the world. We have Trumpeter, Whooper, Australian Black, Polish Mute and Black-necked swans at Lake Eola. The varieties that are not in residence are the Tundra and Coscoroba swans — the Tundra like colder climates, and the Coscoroba tend to like to roam.
The swans started out in Lake Lucerne but ended up in Lake Eola after a mean swan named Billy kept chasing children and biting people. He died, was stuffed and now resides at the Orange County History Center. The rest of the swans were relocated to the outskirts of the city, which, at the time, was Lake Eola. They have been there for decades, and a favorite pastime for locals is feeding them.
Unfortunately, people sometimes bring stale bread, which is not a part of the swan’s proper diet. Swans eat plants in the wild. You will never see them lined up at a bakery. The bread can actually give them a condition called “Angel Wing” that makes their feathers jut outward. Bread thrown into the lake can also throw the pH balance of the water off and cause bacterial infections.
Popcorn can’t be digested by swans either and is deadly. The best thing to feed the swans are heads of lettuce or by using the vending-machine feeders throughout the park. Your quarters help to feed the swans year round.
Prior to the installation of the feeders in the park, the swans had to fend for themselves and eat the bread and garbage in the lake. They were pretty thin, not very healthy, and we were having problems with people abusing them because they had become weak.
We started the feeding program and swan roundup to help the swans about 10 years ago. The Central Florida Kayak Club is given special permission every November to launch their kayaks onto Lake Eola to corral the swans. Volunteer docents, who care for the swans year-round, are trained to pick them up and carry them to the veterinarian.
There, they are given their shots, examined, their wings are clipped, and, if they are cygnets (aka, baby swans), they are microchipped so we can identify them if they are ever stolen. We have had swans stolen from the park. Because of the microchips, we have been successful in finding them and prosecuting the perpetrators.
Swan-A-Thon is a program through the City of Orlando to purchase swans for the park. Sometimes swans are injured by dogs or hit by cars; sometimes they die of natural causes. One of our Black-necked swans lost her mate. A local resident, Shawn Pennington, wanted to help. We came up with this program so residents and businesses can donate to replace and care for our swans. If you would like to donate to Swan-a-thon, you can do so at www.orlando.gov/Our-Government/Mayor-City-Council/Patty-Sheehan/Swan-A-Thon.