In nature, it’s usually the mother of the species who will take care of her young, instinctively taking newborns into her care and raising them.
It’s less common for the father to be as involved — and it’s even rarer to see a “single dad” in the animal kingdom. But sometimes, a male will step up to take care of his children, especially if their mother is unable to.
That was the case recently, with a male swan who has gone viral for taking care of his kids on his own after the death of his mate.
Recently, a swan couple made a home near the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, Massachusetts. They recently hatched nine cygnets, much to the delight of visitors, and the swans and their babies quickly became local celebrities.
But their story took a sad turn recently: the mother swan suddenly died.
“Animal Care and Control received a call with concerns over the female swan’s health, as she seemed to have been bobbing her head and couldn’t stand up on her own,” Emma Feeney, marketing and events coordinator for the Esplanade Association, told The Dodo. “But by the time animal control arrived at the park, unfortunately, the female swan had passed.”
While Boston Animal Control took the deceased swan away, the father was seen quickly taking responsibility for the family, spotted “at the nest with their cygnets tucked under his wings.”
It was the first sign these newborn swans would be okay, despite the loss of their mother, thanks to their caring dad.
The death of the mother swan left visitors heartbroken, but they continued to visit the lagoon to see the family — and a man named Matthew Raifman caught an inspiring sight that left him running for his camera.
“I noticed something was kind of unusual,” Matthew told WBZ-TV. “All the baby cygnets were on top of the papa swan.”
He snapped a few photos of the dad giving his chicks a ride on his back (with one tailing behind in the water). He called it “probably the best photo I’ve ever taken,” and described the situation as “one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming stories in a while.”
He also said that as the father of a toddler, he really felt for the single dad swan. “I felt sort of a kindler spirit with this papa swan that is just trying to be resilient in the face of a pretty challenging life,” Matthew told WBTV.
“I can relate on some level, I think, to what it’s like to be a new dad struggling with a challenging situation you need to overcome.”
The swan’s resilience has turned a heartbreaking story into an inspiring one, and now locals visit the esplanade to see this heroic dad swan.
“They seem to be doing well,” Emma Feeney told The Dodo. “You can tell that he’s just a great, great father to them. It’s very adorable.”
“They’ve been through so much, but they seem so strong.”
It’s sad that the mother swan passed away, but we’re so happy this dad has stepped up to the plate to take care of these babies.