10 JANUARY 1931, Page 13


An Irish observer, whose name is well known among painters and poets, has discovered among the swans, which frequent a millstream in his neighbourhood, the observance of a constant family ritual. When the young are of a suffi- ciently active age they are conducted to some distance by the mother, while the father of the family remains aloof cruising in the neighbourhood of the nest. Presently the mother returns to her mate, and the two intertwine their necks after a fashion that is seen also in the courting ritual of the grebes. The family of young is then brought up for introduction - to the male parent ; and the company reunited by the ceremony swim off together on their lawful occasions. Family tradition- is perhaps stronger among swans than most birds (always excepting the partridge) ; but is such ceremonial ritual as this seen among swans any- where else than this Irish nursery ?