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Other animals

Royal Swan Program

The City of Ottawa is proud to share with the community the Royal Swans that have frequented the Rideau River each summer since 1967. 

If you see a sick or injured swan on the River, please call 311 immediately. You can help us by providing the exact location of the swan, its colour (black or white) as well as your name and a contact phone number.

Livestock, rabbits and pigeons

In urban and suburban areas of the City not zoned for agricultural purposes, the keeping of domestic farm animals and fowl (such as horses, donkeys, mules, cattle, goats, swine, chickens, ducks and geese) is prohibited. In areas where such livestock may be kept, it may not run-at-large. The keeping of rabbits and pigeons in urban areas is also regulated with certain standards for keeping and setting limits on numbers established.

Exotic animals

Ottawa residents may not keep certain exotic or wild animals, known as "prohibited" animals. 

Check the  Animal Care and Control By-law for the detailed list (Schedule B). Regulations prohibiting the keeping of certain "exotic" animals existed in most of the former municipalities and are necessary for public health and safety, as well as animal welfare, particularly as it relates to appropriate care for species with highly specialized needs.

Having a problem with wildlife?

Bats

Calls about sick bats, bats found in sleeping areas, or bats that have been handled by a human or have bitten a human, may be referred to the City at 3-1-1. Click here for more information.

Birds

When it comes to information on and care for wild birds, the Ottawa area has one of the leading centres in Canada. The Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre is a registered charity operating under the authorization of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The Centre cares for sick, injured and orphaned wild birds before releasing them back into the wild. For more information, call the Centre at 613-828-2849 or visit its web site. 

Canada Geese

Please do not feed the birds. Feeding birds can create problems for the birds as well as for the environment. Many urban parks in Canada’s Capital Region are now inundated with gulls, ducks, geese and pigeons. 

Reasons not to feed birds

Feeding birds:

  • Can be detrimental to their health as it can lead to dietary and nutritional problems. Birds are better off building their reserves by moving from location to location in search of a healthy natural diet.
  • Makes them less wary of people and may increase their risk of being harmed. Birds become more aggressive and competitive with each other as populations become concentrated; they also have to survive in a world filled with hazards such as dogs, cats, cars, and people.
  • Contributes to population problems in a small area. As numbers increase, it creates safety hazards and can lead to habitat degradation. Their excrement may reduce water quality, and overgrazing can cause damage to grassy areas.
Facts about Canada geese in urban areas

Manicured parks, lawns and golf courses, bordering ponds or waterfront areas, provide an ideal grazing habitat for geese.

  • An adult goose eats up to 1.8 kg (4 lb.) of grass daily and drops up to 0.9 kg (2 lb.) of fecal matter daily.
  • Once geese have nested successfully, they typically return to the same nesting site year after year, as do their offspring. Left unchecked, urban goose populations can double in size every few years. Geese typically lay from three to six eggs each year and can live as long as 24 years.
  • Geese are remarkably adaptable–they have been reported nesting in trees, roadside ditches, close to swimming pools and even on flat rooftops. 

Mammals

If you are experiencing a problem with a wild animal, such as a squirrel, racoon or skunk, do not panic and do not attempt to remove the animal. Visit wildlifeinfo.ca/conflicts.html for cost effective and humane solutions to common wildlife problems. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry regulates rehabilitation of wildlife and a permit from the MNRF is required. Wild animals may not be cared for in your home. Calls about injured wild animals may be referred to the Ottawa Humane Society at their emergency number, 613-725-1532.

Rabies

It is also important to be aware that there are Provincial regulations governing wildlife management. Learn more about rabies in Ontario at www.rabies.mnr.gov.on.ca (rabies cases, fact sheets, relocation, etc.). For information on rules and regulations regarding wildlife in captivity and authorizations, please contact the Kemptville District Office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at 613-258-8204.

All cats and dogs must be vaccinated against rabies - it's the law (Health Protection and Promotion Act) and in the best interest of your health and that of your family pet. Click here for more information.

Royal Swan FAQs

Where did the City of Ottawa get its swans?

In 1967, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gifted the City of Ottawa, Canada's capital, with six pairs of Mute (Royal) swans. Her Majesty's gift was in celebration of Canada's 100th birthday.

Which species do we have in Ottawa?

Ottawa has two species of swans living on the Rideau River: one is called a Mute (Royal, white) swan and the other is called an Australian Black swan. The scientific name for the Mute swan is cygnus olor and for the Australian Black swan is cygnus atratus. The first pair of Australian Black swans was received from a trade with the Montreal Zoo in 1974.

Swans can live for over thirty years if they are well cared for. Swans mate for life but, may accept a new mate if the other dies. A male swan is called a cob. A female is called a pen. Baby swans are called cygnets. Swans can lay up to eight eggs but, the average clutch size is five.

Swans usually sleep at night, and will rest from time to time during the day. When asleep or resting, they lay with their necks across their backs and their heads under one wing. This resting posture is often mistaken for an injury.

Where do the swans live?

The swans can be seen on the Rideau River anywhere from Carleton University to the Cummings Bridge. Each pair of swans has its own "favourite" area where it lives for the spring and summer months. Swans prefer to nest in private areas that are surrounded by tall grass or brush and that are not easily accessible to predators and people. They want to protect their cygnets, or brood, from harm.

The swans are removed from the River in the fall - late October or early November - to live at Parc Safari in Hemmingford Quebec until May, or so, of the following year. The swans used to be housed at a wintering facility (known as the “Swan House”) located at the City’s Leitrim Nursery, but this building had reached its end of life. In October 2015, City staff entered into a Winter Facility Care Agreement for the swans with Parc Safari.  There, each pair of swans has its own indoor pen with a resting area and a swimming pool, and its own outdoor pen. The swans enjoy the outdoors, even in winter. They must be wintered off the River not because of the cold but, because there is not enough open water, which they require in order to sift their food. In consideration of the health of the swans, their wintering facility is not open to the public.

What do swans eat?

While on the Rideau River, the swans eat the plants that grow in and around the River. They are often fed bread and other "people food" by well-meaning citizens but, "greens" such as lettuce, spinach and alfalfa sprouts are much better for them. The swans must compete for food with ducks, gulls and other birds while on the River.

The swans' winter diet is quite different from their summer diet because they cannot forage for naturally-occurring plant material in their winter home. There, they are fed a grain-based ration called "Duck Grower" and are provided "greens", like lettuce, each day.

Do they have any predators?

Uncontrolled dogs, raccoons, and fox are their most common predators. Large fish and snapping turtles may prey on very young swans. Much like Canada geese, the swans use their very strong wings to fend off unwelcome visitors.

Why are their wings clipped?

The City's swans cannot fly because they are pinioned, meaning that the primary feathers of one wing have been permanently clipped. The primary feathers are the long feathers furthest from the bird's body without which a bird cannot fly. The Canadian Wildlife Service, the federal agency that sets the regulations concerning the keeping of such birds and gives the City the permit which allows it to keep them, requires that the swans be pinioned so that they do not migrate and disturb other North American bird populations. That the swans are pinioned is also one of the reasons that they must be removed from the River for the winter as they cannot fly south like other migratory birds.

Is it safe to touch the swans?

It is not safe to touch the swans. Even though they cannot fly, they are in a semi-wild state and it is best that people enjoy them from a distance just as one would any other wild animal or bird. It is, in fact, unlawful to disturb the swans and/or their young, including eggs. The swans are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Where can I get more information about the City's Royal Swan Program?

For any additional information on the Royal Swan Program, please contact Laila Gibbons, at 613-580-2424, ext. 23988.

Report prohibited exotic animals.

Report prohibited exotic animals

For more information

For a detailed list of prohibited animals, see Schedule B of the Animal Care and Control By-law.

For wildlife issues requiring immediate attention or to report a sick or injured Royal Swan please call 311.

To report livestock running loose please call 311.