Life on Swan Lake




Roberto Gonzalez

Q: How many swans live at Lake Eola Park?

A: Although the lake itself can comfortably accommodate nearly 200 swans, says park manager Chris Wallace, such a large community would cause some serious crowding on shore, not to mention watch-where-you-step angst among humans. So if the population rises above 60, the city seeks new homes for a selected few at zoos. Nature has a way of keeping the numbers steady, though. Unfortunately humans can also enter into the equation, as was the recent case of a park-goer who allegedly unleashed his dachshund on a swan, resulting in the bird’s demise. (The dog owner was charged with animal cruelty.)

There are five species of swans at Lake Eola: Royal Mute (30-35), Australian Black (15), Whooper (8) and one each of Black Neck and Trumpeter. They generally get along, although there’s an interesting romantic/social dynamic at play—and even the occasional rubout. Two of the Whoopers brought in as intentional mates 15 years ago have never spoken to each other and stay on opposite ends of the lake. A mate was brought in for the Black Neck, but she rejected him, and then he started chasing baby swans. Bad idea. The Whoopers took him for a little ride, and now he sleeps with the fishes.

Swans have been around Orlando’s lakes since at least the early 20th century, when a businessman brought in four of the birds to grace Lake Lucerne in front of his home. (One of those, an extremely aggressive cuss named Billy, is stuffed and on display at the Orange County Regional History Center.) Wallace says that while Eola’s swans are protective of their nests during the spring mating season, they’re pretty docile the rest of the year.

Orange County Regional History Center

If you’d like to feed the swans, avoid giving them bread (it discolors their wings), and popcorn (the kernels can cause a fatal blockage). Any kind of lettuce is fine. Algae is their natural food and that’s what they’re going for when you see them on the lake, heads underwater in that “butts-in-the-air’’ position.

Q: Is Chillounge Night coming back to Orlando?

A: The outdoor lounge party, with its chic daybeds and mood lighting, had its Orlando debut in 2010, but was absent from Lake Eola Park this past spring. Founder Rainer Scheer says it was a matter of timing—the park’s open dates didn’t mesh with Chillounge’s schedule.  And he couldn’t find enough sponsorship money this time around.

Scheer—a southwest Florida resident who stages these events annually in Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota and Treasure Island—still holds out hope of finding an Orlando area venue before the end of the year. A good sign for the future: the coming expansion of Eola Park on its southeast side will make more dates available for booking. 

Answer Man welcomes your questions about the Orlando area. Send queries to answerman@orlandomagazine.com

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