19th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
A papa swan carries its cygnets after their mother died.

In early June 2021, six swan cygnets were born in Boston. The mother died a few days later of unknown causes. One of the cygnets drowned shortly thereafter and another one was rescued by animal control when it was struggling. This papa swan, left to his own, is rising to the challenge and caring for the remaining cygnets himself. This photo captures a moment of parenthood, with the father swan sheltering three of the four cygnets on his back with the fourth trailing closely behind. This swan family's story is heartbreaking and heartwarming: from the happiness of a spring hatching, to the sadness of the loss of a mother swan, to the resiliency of the father. It also transcends species and connects with our human experience over the past two years with the global pandemic. We have all suffered and struggled, many of us have lost loved ones, but the resiliency to keep moving forward is on display as we try to turn the corner.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 06.2021
Date Uploaded: 06.2021
Photo Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
Camera: NIKON D850
Copyright: © Matthew Raifman