Best of ORL 2019 - Swan Bits

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Lake Eola is home to 57 swans: 43 royal mutes, seven Australian blacks, four whoopers, two black-necked and one trumpeter. Favorite hangout: the northwestern shore, near the Chinese Ting and the peninsula. Orlando has five of the seven swan species in existence, missing only the Tundra, which lives in the Arctic regions, and the Coscoroba, which thrives in southern South America.

Every year, the city does a “swan roundup’’ at the lake. All the birds are examined by a veterinarian and get shots against botulism. Also, their wings are clipped and their weight is checked. Eola’s swans are microchipped and that has led to recovery of the birds when two-legged predators have made off with them.

The Swan-A-Thon program allows people to contribute toward the purchase of swans, which cost $1,500-$4,000. For info, click here. Fun fact: Orlando’s most famous swan was Billy, a testy sort who lived at Lake Lucerne from 1910 to 1933. His stuffed self is on display at the Orange County Regional History Center.

When feeding swans, stick to leafy greens, or use the vending machines around Lake Eola that dispense swan-friendly food. Do NOT feed them popcorn, which can cause blockages and kill them. Bread is off limits too. It makes them constipated and can lead to discoloration of feathers. Trivia break: When you see swans in their “butts in the air’’ pose, they’re eating vegetation off the lake bottom.

Swan boats have glided along Lake Eola in some form since the 1920s. These days they are self-powered (via pedals), and there are eight, including one that is wheelchair accessible. Each regular boat holds five people, while the accessible boat holds three, including the wheelchair’s occupant. Boats are  available starting at 10 a.m. daily on the west side of the park across from  Relax Grill. Rental fee is $15 per half-hour.

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