The mystery behind Swanson: The swan who loves float planes


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a swan that loves to follow float planes.

Nestled at Victoria’s Inner Harbour, there is a local celebrity that has caused headaches, laughs, and on several occasions hitched plane rides with Harbour Air, without ever paying for a ticket.

“Trumpeter swan. That crazy trumpeter swan,” said Jacques Sirois, birdwatcher and chair for the Friends of Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

The Swan — known as “Swanson” — seems to have grown an attraction to the airline company’s floatplanes. For the last few years, it has been known to follow the planes as they taxi in and out, and also fly alongside planes as they take off.

Sirois says that since 2021, he has seen Swanson on several occasions.

“This swan quite literally interacted with the planes in a way that was well, untoward, a cause for concern. Interestingly, the swan kept coming. It didn’t show up for just a day or two,” said Sirois.

Harbour Air officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

There are a few theories as to why Swanson follows the planes. CHEK News spoke with some Harbour Air employees and they say that Swanson previously had a partner that passed away, and grew an attraction to the planes due to their partially-white colours.

However, Ann Nightingale, a volunteer with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory believes that Swanson could just be looking for other swans.

“It could just think it’s part of its flock or it could think that it is something infringing on its territory. Swans can be quite aggressive and territorial,” said Nightingale.

The Swan has captured the attention of air pilots and Environment Canada. On several occasions, officials have tried to sway the bird away while out on the waters.

“A permit was issued to allow “hazing” of the swan to encourage it to move to a different location where it would not come into conflict with aircraft. However, the swan has since become comfortable around people. Despite the hazing attempts, it has chosen to remain in the harbour. ECCC is currently examining the option of capturing and removing the swan,” said Environment Canada in an emailed statement to CHEK News.

Nightingale doesn’t believe the bird will be in harms way.

“This is a bird that has become comfortable with the planes. When you see swans flying through the air, they don’t run into each other. So it’s going to keep its distance,” said Nightingale.

Trumpeter swans often arrive in the Inner Harbour during late winter and are usually gone by March, according to Nightingale.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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