Two starving Australian black swans, likely doomed after being abandoned in Southold, were rescued by kayaking volunteers and neighbors, a rescuer said Friday.
The pair of swans, so striking, at least in this hemisphere, with their midnight plumage and red, white-tipped beaks, were caught Thursday by John Di Leonardo, president of the nonprofit Long Island Orchestrating for Nature in Malverne.
He lured them with the wildfowl equivalent of crack — bread — though he said it should never be offered except in emergencies because it so devoid of nutrition that it leads to all sorts of deficiencies.
"It's the best bait; it's terrible for them but it tastes good," he said by telephone. As the pair is tame, they previously may have been fed bread.
The night before, while he was one of the rescuers trying to capture Mastic's runaway bull, the East Quogue-based nonprofit Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center contacted him about rescuing the swans — one male, one female.
Thanks to local media reports about their plight, someone spotted them Thursday morning in a creek. About half a dozen neighbors and volunteers, including nonprofit Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, came out in kayaks to corral the pair until Di Leonardo and a volunteer, Elliot Speiser of West Hempstead, could drive the two hours or so to Southold.
"They were obviously tame, they were starving, and I just ducked down in the shallows in the shore and started throwing some bread to see if I could hand grab them," Di Leonardo said.
The male drew near, but then possibly was spooked by the kayaks approaching. "I kept the net low in the water, and when he came close, I just raised it up and secured the male first [and] put him in the carrier; then we did the same thing with the female."
The swans are ill-suited for this hemisphere's climate and predators, Di Leonardo said.
Rescuing about 1,000 ducks, chickens, and geese a year — all domestic, all abandoned, all unable to survive in the wild — he resists naming them to avoid becoming overly fond as they are destined for new homes.
The pair of swans are temporarily staying at the nonprofit's Malverne base, whose other tenants currently include a dozen or so other rescued birds, one of them a "fits in the palm of your hand" baby rooster.
The swans may eventually head to an out-of-state sanctuary, though first the male may need to be treated for a foot infection. Still, Di Leonardo said, Long Islanders are welcome to apply: "We're still taking offers if someone can match that level of care closer by."