SWANTON VILLAGE — Sam’s lonely days are over.
The Messenger spotted Swanton’s signature avian rubbing beaks with a special lady this Monday morning in the village park’s swan enclosure.
Although their courtship is relatively new, Sam and this new swan seem to already have formed a bond.
The couple nuzzled necks and beaks after a brisk lap around the pond and the new swan guarded Sam from the paparazzi with all the devotion of one mated for life.
The Swanton Chamber of Commerce has named this new swan Betty, of course.
The chamber has named every swan couple Sam and Betty after Swanton’s first swans. Queen Elizabeth sent those swans in 1963 as a gift, according to The History of Swanton, Vermont by Rodney R. Ledoux. Thus Betty for Queen Elizabeth and Sam for Uncle Sam.
This new Betty is clearly female. One can tell from the knobbing on her beak. That’s the black bump at the beak’s start.
Male swans have larger bumps. Sam’s is about the size of a small stress ball, while Betty’s is about the size of a large earring.
This young Betty hails from the Prairie State: Illinois.
The chamber purchased her from Knox Swan & Dog, a company that sells mostly guard swans — mute swans trained to frighten Canadian geese from personal property.
According to Washburn, this Betty is two years old.
Chamber president Suzanne Washburn said she and the chamber’s vice president, Mark Rocheleau, immediately took Betty to veterinarians upon her arrival in Vermont.
Washburn said they wanted to make sure Betty is in perfect health after her predecessor’s undetected illness. Good news: she is.
Betty’s last incarnation abruptly passed in Oct. 2017 from a rare disease, amyloidosis, faulty protein formation. Veterinarians determined the disease already afflicted Betty upon her arrival in Swanton barely three months before her passing.
The University of Miami tested Sam’s blood after Betty’s death and determined he is not suffering from the same disease and is in overall good health.
Since Betty’s passing, two ducks have kept Sam company, Phantom and Zorro. But Washburn said four’s a crowd in the swans’ park enclosure, and that after a series of civil disagreements the two pairs have amicably parted. Phantom and Zorro now reside on a family farm in Alburgh.
Missisquoi Valley Union (MVU) agricultural studies students took care of Sam, Phantom and Zorro this past winter under the supervision of instructor Jim Messier. Washburn said the chamber “can’t thank them enough” for their attention to our feathered friends.
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