The Mute Swan: National Bird of Denmark

group of baby swan cygnets
iStock.com/Dmitry Potashkin

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Published: January 20, 2023

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Denmark is a Scandinavian country in northern Europe. The country is mostly surrounded by water with the exception of the southern border that connects to Germany. The North Sea is on the west coast and the Baltic Sea is on the east coast. There are hundreds of smaller islands that dot the coastline as well as several larger islands like Zealand and Funen. Greenland is governed by itself but is still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Much of the habitats in Denmark are along the coast and the fjords, but there are also forests, grasslands and scrubs. There are six national parks in the country providing a variety of wildlife viewing and protection for the animals and birds. The Danish people take pride in their wildlife and have a national mammal, national butterfly and national bird. Read on to find out all about the national bird of Denmark: the mute swan.

What is the National Bird of Denmark?

The national bird of Denmark is the mute swan. The mute swan is a beloved character from the fairytale “The Ugly Duckling” written by the famous Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. If you remember the tale it involves a baby swan that is mistakenly hatched in a nest of baby ducks. The ducks all call their “sibling” ugly and make fun of him because he looks so different. It isn’t until the following spring when he matures into an adult swan that he figures out he is a beautiful swan and not a duck at all. He finds other swans to be his new family and fits right in.

Most Dangerous Birds
Mute swans, while beautiful, can be dangerous birds if they feel threatened.

The mute swan is a beautiful graceful bird with a long elegant neck and pure white feathers. Mute swans are not completely mute, they do make noises, but they are quieter than other swans like the whooper swan. The mute swan is the largest bird in Denmark and gets to be five feet long. Swans have a reputation of being peaceful animals and are a worthy symbol of Denmark.

Where do Mute Swans Live?

Mute swans live in most of Europe, some areas of Asia and have been introduced in the U.S., Canada and Australia. In Denmark they commonly live near humans in park ponds, streams and lakes. Their close living conditions with humans make them even more relatable to the Danish people. Swans do mate for life so you frequently see a pair of swans together. You can also see groups of swans together in a flock.

Is the Mute Swan on the Flag of Denmark?

No. The mute swan is not on the flag of Denmark, but it certainly would be a nice addition. However it is very unlikely the Danish will change their flag because they hold the world record for having the “oldest continuously used flag”. The flag design was adopted in 1625 and has remained unchanged since. The flag is all red with a white cross on it. The center of the cross is offset to the left and is referred to as the “Nordic Cross” or “Scandinavian Cross”.

The flag of Denmark

The flag of Denmark is a simple design that is noticeably devoid of a mute swan.

Is the Mute Swan Featured on the Money of Denmark?

Yes! There was a commoritive coin collection that featured a swan looking at its reflection. The swan coin was one of five in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale series. The 10-krone coins featured the Ugly Duckling, Little Mermaid, Snow Queen, Shadow and Nightingale.

What other Animals are Featured on the Money of Denmark?

Another commemorative coin features the polar bear as part of the Polar Coins series. Greenland is one of the few places in the world that polar bears still live. Polar bears are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN with climate change being a huge factor for these bears that depend on the arctic sea ice. Denmark was one of the five nations to sign the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears back in 1973 as a way to help manage the polar bear populations.

Other animals are featured on the 1972 banknote series of the Danish krone. It was called the Jens Juel Series, named for a famous painter who lived from 1745-1802. The front of the banknotes had some of his famous paintings and the back each featured a different animal including:

  • 10 kroner: common eider (a black and white sea duck)
  • 20 kroner: two house sparrows (common throughout Denmark)
  • 50 kroner: Crucian carp (small-to-medium sized carp that are around 5 kg or 11 pounds)
  • 100 kroner: red underwing (not a bird but a moth that can get to be 2 ½ – 3 inches long)
  • 500 kroner: sand lizard ( a green or tan lizard that lives in coastal areas)
  • 1000 kroner: red squirrel (also common throughout Denmark)

What other Animals Live in Denmark?

Other animals that live in Denmark include common animals like deer, foxes, beaver and hares. With much of Denmark being coastal you will also find sandpipers, cranes, heron, crabs, snails and storks. When it comes to snakes there are only two species left in the country, the common European Adder and the grass snake. Adders are venomous but grass snakes are not.

There are a variety of both freshwater and saltwater fish in Denmark and off the coast. You will find perch, pike, cod and salmon as well as sea trout, mackerel, Pollock, Burbot and garfish.

What other Birds Live in Denmark besides Mute Swans?

Other birds that live in Denmark are the majestic golden eagles, large falcons and the common buzzard. Songbirds like the Eurasian jay and European robin are quite common especially living near humans. Cranes will migrate through Denmark, stopping over in neighboring Sweden, thousands of them! Geese and loons can be seen in some of the same lakes and ponds as swans. Certainly plenty of birds to choose from for your national bird, but with a history that includes the famous Hans Christian Anderson it seems fitting to have the swan as the national bird of Denmark.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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