swans and milk

Allen Adler adler at pulsar.wku.edu
Sat Apr 27 13:56:08 EST 1996

A friend of mine from India was helping me read the beginning of
the Panchatantra in Sanskrit. In passing, there is some reference
to the "fact" that a swan can drink milk in such a way that it
extracts the nutrients and leaves the water behind. My friend
was of the opinion that this is actually true of swans whereas
I am somewhat skeptical for the following reasons:

(1) swans are tough and ornery and could not be easily induced
    to participate in such an experiment against their wills.
    (I understand that even alligators don't mess around with swans).
(2) I have no reason to believe they like milk.

I can't, however, rule it out on physical or chemical grounds, since
I don't know what kinds of chemicals swans might have in their
mouths. For example, maybe they have acidic saliva that curdles milk
and lets them eat the curds and leave the whey behind.

Anyway, if anyone knows anything about swans that might have
some bearing on this question, please let me know.

Allan Adler
adler at pulsar.cs.wku.edu

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