Buyers traveled from all over Florida, with crates and carriers, to bring their feathered guests home.
The buyers, the new keepers of some of Lakeland, Florida’s beloved swans, smiled as they rocked the long-necked birds.
Last month, the city held a public lottery and sold 36 mute white swans, split evenly between men and women, to alleviate overcrowding at Lake Morton, their longtime home in the city.
Lakeland’s swan population, at Lake Morton and another lake in the city, had climbed to 86 since Queen Elizabeth II donated them in 1957.
A Lakeland resident, whose husband was stationed in the Air Force in England, missed seeing the swans in the lake where their population was wiped out in 1953, said Kevin Cook, a spokesperson for the city.
She wrote to Queen Elizabeth II, asking if she would donate a pair from her royal herd. The Queen agreed and on February 7, 1957, a breeding pair of mute swans arrived in Lakeland, Mr Cook said.
Eighty-two people registered for the swan sale, which was organized because the lake was overcrowded with waterfowl, including swans and wild geese and ducks, Cook said.
The city randomly picked the names and approved 18 buyers, who each sold a pair of swans for $ 800.
“We sold them in pairs because they’re very social,” Cook said. Proceeds from sales go to a fund to take care of birds remaining in the city.
Buyers were required to sign a sales contract in which they agreed to “provide safe and healthy habitat for swans”, including a water source, such as a pond or lake, and veterinary care on an annual basis, at least.
On Thursday, buyers picked up their swans, which can live up to 50 years in captivity.
The swans are heading to these new homes:
Danifer Quinones, Fort Myers, Florida.
The Fort Myers resident was the first to line up to get her swans.
“I was so excited,” said Ms Quinones, who drove about two hours to Lakeland to pick them up. “And they’re bigger than I thought they would be.”
Ms Quinones has ducks, pheasants and black swans on her 10-acre farm, which has two ponds, she said. She thought a pair of white swans would complement them. When swans are face to face, she says, their long, curved necks form the shape of a heart.
“They do it naturally,” she says. “I think it’s cute.”
Jose and Yesenia Gonzalez, Riverview, Florida.
The couple have a menagerie of animals on their two-acre property in Riverview, Fla., Including parrots, chickens, roosters, turtles and four swans – two black and two white.
When they heard about the sale of swans, everyone applied for a lottery to increase their chances of being selected.
“And it was I who won!” said Ms Gonzalez, a teacher who lived in Lakeland where she loved to watch swans at Lake Morton. “They are so beautiful. We have always wanted swans from the lake. We were very happy to get them back.
The Gonzalezs used a very large dog crate to bring the swans home. Ms Gonzalez said the new additions fit well.
“They get along with the other swans,” she says. “They are so happy to be together.”
Highland Village, Lakeland, Florida.
The community of 380 homes has three lakes in southern Lakeland. When Stephen Sandberg Jr., the president of the homeowners association, heard about the sale of swans, he thought it would be great to have some as neighbors.
“They are a symbol of Lakeland and I thought they would look beautiful in our lake,” he said. “There has been a huge wave of support since we let them go.
Birds preening in the main lake where residents watch them from a dock.
“They swim under the fountain and get wet,” he says. “They are beautiful animals, and I can’t wait for them to breed and for us to have more. ”
The association is organizing a competition to name the swans.
Lost Lake Apartments, Jacksonville, Florida.
The residential community with 280 units has an expansive pond “which we knew to be the perfect home for a pair of swans,” said Chelsey Southard, a regional real estate director for the Becovic Management Group, who oversees the property.
When the owner of the business, Muhamed Becovic, learned of the swan sale, he asked him to register, Ms Southard said.
“Swans really hold a special place in her heart,” she says. “I counted the days like Christmas until our pair of swans were safely brought into their new home.”
When the birds emerged from a crate by the pond, they wagged their tails and flapped their wings, video of their arrival showed. They then began to move to their new home.