Saturday, May 19, 2012

Christine Hartig

Honorary Keeper of the Royal Swans

Cared for the city’s Royal Swans in Ottawa for 25 years.

As a project and policy officer with the city of Ottawa’s bylaw and regulatory services branch, Hartig has ensured the health and safety of the swans since 1987. As of May 2012, she is passing on that responsibility to the parks and recreation department. In recognition of her work, she was named Honorary Keeper of the Royal Swans.

For 25 years, she conducted bi-weekly health and facility inspections while the swans were in their wintering quarters, and provided year-round on-call and emergency services.

Historical note :
In 1967, then-governor general Roland Michener joined Ottawa mayor Frank Reid at a ceremony behind City Hall to release six pairs of mute swans into the Rideau River.  

The swans were a gift from the Queen to mark Canada’s centennial. Today, the descendants of those 12 royal white swans continue to swim and forage in the Rideau from May to November. Then they head to their winter home at the city’s Leitrim Nursery, to wait for spring when once again they take to the historic waterway.  

Occasionally you may also  spot a few Australian black swans, descendants of some donated by the Montreal zoo in 1974.  

The swans, which can live for 30 years or more, mate for life but will accept a new mate if one dies. They normally sleep at night, but occasionally take a catnap during the daylight hours.  The swans nest in areas of tall grass or brush, away from predators and curious passersby.  

Ottawa’s royal swans cannot fly because their wings have been pinioned, meaning the primary feathers on one wing has been permanently clipped. This precaution is dictated by the Canadian Wildlife Service so the birds don’t migrate and disturb native North American species.

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