Lake Eola park in Downtown Orlando is an oasis in the surrounding concrete cityscape. The graceful swans that inhabit the park add a sense of tranquillity as they glide across the water or waddle along the banks of the lake. Visitors to the park can feed the swans or rent paddle boats shaped like swans to ride on the lake.
The presence of swans at Lake Eola dates back to the early 1900's when a prominent businessman, Charles Lord, purchased a pair of black swans and a pair of white swans for his home on Lake Lucerne where city workers cared for them. The aggressive male white swan, Billy, picked on the black swans until they were moved to Lake Eola for their safety.
This antagonistic swan earned the nickname "Tyrant of Lake Lucerne" for his fierce protection of his territory by chasing children on their walks to school and even passing cars. Over Billy's lifetime he earned quite a reputation among Orlando residents. When he died in the 1930's his body was taken to a taxidermist to be preserved and was displayed in the Swan & Co. Dry Goods Store on West Church Street. Currently, Billy is on display at the Orange County Regional History Center.
The more than fifty swans at Lake Eola today are representative of swans from around the world. The five varieties residing in the park are:
- Trumpeter Swans - indigenous to North America and the largest of the swan species
- Whooper Swans - the National Bird of Finland and although most swans mate for life, Whooper Swans have a 6% divorce rate
- Black Neck Swans - native to South America and because they are awkward on land they spend most of their time in the water
- Australian Black Swans - found primarily in southeast and southwest Australia, they were hunted to extinction in New Zealand
- Royal Mute Swans - native to much of Europe and Asia, not truly mute, but less vocal than other swan species
The swans can become ill from eating certain foods such as bread or popcorn so the public is asked to purchase food from one of the three feeders in the park. They are located near the playground and the Ting Pavilion. Other approved food includes lettuce, loose field greens, spinach leaves and duck pellet food from pet/feed stores.
For more information about the swans of Lake Eola or Lake Eola Park visit the City of Orlando Families, Parks and Recreation website.