Healthy birds do not freeze.
They stay immovable at one place to save energy. Throwing snowballs and pieces of ice at them is not wise: usually, they are not disturbed by it or even worse – you may injure the bird seriously. A swan flying away from the rescuers will return soon. Let them be, keep an eye on them and make a call if there is serious trouble: it can been seen that the bird flaps its wings and cannot move elsewhere (it happens very rarely). The birds are not cold thanks to their thick and water-resistant plumage (compare with padded feather jacket of people). The feet of the bird do not feel the cold.
Waterfowl who winter in Estonia or who are migrating (swans, ducks) do not need feeding or rescuing.
One cannot begin to feed swans and other waterfowl who have stayed on small water bodies only because the water body starts to freeze. In the autumn, the swans migrate a lot, some stay individually or in a group on fields, small water bodies or elsewhere. Such migration breaks lasts from a couple of days to a few weeks, big birds rest and wait for suitable weather for migrating. Do not feed them – they will rest and then go their own way. If natural conditions become unsuitable, the birds move to a suitable place. If you feed them, they will not move and stay dependent on the feeding by people which may not be regular enough and which is certainly not healthy (bread is not bird food) so that the birds become weak and may fall prey to stray dogs or also to foxes.
If swans need rescuing, please call the Environmental Inspectorate number 1313. Do not try to save the bird yourself, the ice is not thick enough!
You should help if you see that the swan is weak, i.e. does not raise its head, does not move or tries to move, but cannot (it is frozen).
NB! The swans sleep with their head under their wings and with feet rolled up between the feathers.
Swans. Photo: Marko Liiva