Lakeland, whose symbol is the swan, has had swans in its lakes since 1923. Unfortunately, by 1954 all the swans had been eaten by alligators. Mrs. Robert Pickhardt, a Lakeland native living in England at the time, was familiar with the royal flock of swans on the Thames river in London – birds descended from the original pair given to Richard the Lion Hearted. Mrs. Pickhardt inquired about purchasing a pair for Lakeland. Queen Elizabeth, agreed to send a pair of swans to Lakeland if the city would pay the cost of capture, crating, and shipping, estimated at $300.
Eventually the money was raised and a pair of White Mute Swans from England were released on Lake Morton on February 9, 1957. Descendants of that pair continue to grace the city’s many lakes; today there are more than 200 birds, including White Mutes, Australian Black Swans, White Coscorba Swans from the Falkland Islands, Black Neck Swans from South America, white pelicans, ducks, geese, and other species.
Lakeland has learned its lesson and is very protective of its swans now. Annually the swan’s are rounded up and given a check up by a veterinarian who specializes in swans. Additionally, the city provides feeding stations and breeding pens along Lake Morton’s perimeter. The swan is now the city’s official logo.
If you are driving, be careful, the swans have the right of way.
Florida Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff by David Grimes & Tom Becnel