Sunday, December 16, 2007
They made an unlikely couple - Petra the graceful black swan and the plastic pedal boat she followed around a lake in the north of Germany. But after nearly two years the bond of affection appears to have broken and lovestruck bird has turned her back on the swan-shaped white pedalo for someone else. For the past week Petra has been swanning around with a new companion - one of the feathered kind. "They swim together and eat together. They are virtually inseparable," said Joerg Adler, director of the zoo in Muenster, where the pair are spending the winter. No one is more surprised at this development than Adler, who has looked after Petra and her plastic heartthrob for the past two winters when they move to the zoo from a city lake called Aasee. Adler said he was making preparations for them to return to the lake in the spring when the rival swan appeared on the scene in a glittering coal of white feathers. In fact, the young swan appears to have been courting Petra before she left the lake and followed her via a canal which links it to the zoo.Joggers and yachtsmen on Aasee had reported seeing Petra leave the paddle boat for a couple of hours on several occasions in early December, something she had never done before. "It looks as though the younger rival has won her heart and the pedal boat is the loser," said Adler. "It almost makes one feel sorry for it." Experts are not concerned that the black swan and the white mute swan are not a true match of species. "Even animals don't want to go empty handed and often look beyond their immediate circle," said Hans-Uwe Schuetz, spokesman forthe European Union bird protection area in Muenster. "Cross-species relations are not unusual among birds. We have seen these happen between grey geese and Canadian geese," he said. But nevertheless a question-mark hangs over Petra's new partnership. It is still not clear whether her new paramour is a male or a female. You can't really tell in mute swans of this age," said Adler. "If we really want to know we'll need to examine its feathers."