Trouble in Paradise: Swans in Town Pond Malfunction

Credit: Ross Hawkes

East Hampton is proud of its great white swans. Every year they come up from the south and settle in East Hampton town pond and other places here to paddle around and interact with the public who come to admire them. The swans are also grateful when humans feed them bread, seeds or other treats, but they don’t honk in appreciation. They are mute swans.

This spring, however, there is a problem. The swans arrived, trucked up from Palm Beach, where they spent the winter in Dreher Pond down there, but they are plagued with an intermittent computer malfunction. It was first noticed in January in Palm Beach, when the swans, normally calm and friendly, began flapping their wings and pecking at people and driving them away. Then, after about 20 seconds, they would calm back down and be just as pleasant as they had been before.

The authorities there called the company that built the swans—they are made by the Hirohito Fowl Computer Company in Miami—and the company sent a technician, but, after four days of trying, he was unable to duplicate the problem. Of course, immediately after he left, it happened again. And then it happened just one more time before it was time to send them north to us. They arrived two weeks ago, and we worried about the malfunction, but until Wednesday, there had been no problem.

You may recall that three years ago, the swans, functioning with computer chips from the Orlando Toy Company, had this same problem down in Palm Beach, and it was so bad that the Palm Beach authorities called Orlando, who came and took them out of service, replaced the computer chips and tried again. But the swans continued to malfunction. Because of that, Palm Beach did not have swans in their pond for the remainder of the season, and when the time came, did not, by mutual agreement, have them trucked up here. We had no swans in the pond that summer two years ago.

The following year, last year, the swans were back in service once again in Palm Beach and were just fine. That was because a new computer chip company had been hired—Hirohito of Miami. This second computer chip worked much better, even giving the swans a little more pep. The chip continued working when they trucked the swans up north last summer to East Hampton, where, in addition, Hirohito came to install some new experimental add-on chip that resulted in their giving birth to and raising six young cygnets in the East Hampton town pond, right before our eyes. Hooray for the Hirohito Fowl Computer Company.

At the same time the cygnets were being raised here last summer, there was more good news for East Hampton and Palm Beach. A judge had ruled in favor of our two towns in our lawsuit against the Orlando Toy Company, which had made the swans three years ago, and the ruling required that Orlando pay $110 million to the two villages—Palm Beach and East Hampton—for their time and trouble not having the swans in the pond for a whole year the year before. The two towns split the money, and what a windfall that was.

But then we come to what happened Wednesday. A family of tourists, Bob and Amy Chesterson and their two children from Bay Shore, driving a Lexus, got out of their car at Town Pond, took photographs of the swans, and stepped to get a close-up shot when, suddenly, for no apparent reason, the two adult swans, hissing and spitting—we don’t know where the hissing comes from, since they are supposed to be mute—began to flap their wings and charge at them, pecking at the tourists’ ankles, arms and chests, snatching their camera, then chasing them back to their Lexus, where, once inside with the doors locked, they cowered in fear as the swans began attacking the car.

They pecked through the tires, causing them to go flat, pecked the doors and fenders, leaving indentations and dent marks, pecked the camera until it broke into pieces on the ground alongside the passenger door, and so frightened the Chestertons that, unable to drive away, the Chestertons resorted to their cellphones to get the police to come and get them free from these vicious attacks.

The village authorities met two nights ago to consider the situation and have decided that, since the season is now almost upon us, and Hirohito says they will fly a technician up over the weekend to remove the ad-on parenting chip that they think caused the malfunction, the village will proceed with the swans in the pond but will keep a close eye on them. They also ordered police to be stationed nearby.

The bottom line here this spring is, look out for the swans. You can admire them from a distance, and you can get within ten feet of them, but do not venture any closer. If you want to feed them, and there are no signs telling you not to and there’s no law that says you can’t, just throw the bread bits from a ten-foot distance from the swans. They can easily find them where they land and enjoy them, and you can watch them do that. And keep in mind, the police are here, and they have their stun guns and tasers, loaded and ready.

AS WE GO TO PRESS: We have learned that the swans have been removed from the pond again. We will let you know when they will be returned, just as soon as we find out.


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