The Mute Swan has been a domesticated bird in England for over 800 years. It is sometimes called the ‘royal’ bird and in fact by the thirteenth century all the swans in England belonged to the Crown. People were allowed to keep swans on open water as long as the birds were prevented from flying away, and they carried their owner’s mark. Hundreds of swan marks were developed. Birds usually had a series of notches or a symbol on the orange part of their beak. One man, the Royal Swan herd, was responsible for registering all the marks and for actually marking the birds. Each year he would set out on swan upping expeditions to gather all the year’s cygnets for marking. This ancient practice is still carried out each year on the River Thames where all the swans belong to the Queen.