Police in Manlius, a southeast suburb of Syracuse, sounded the alarm this week after Faye, one of the village's most iconic residents, and four of her baby swans, known as cygnets, were reported missing after a Memorial Day parade.
"Unfortunately, the investigation led to the discovery that Faye ... had been killed over the weekend," Manlius police said in an update Tuesday.
Not only was the swan slain; she was later eaten by the teenagers and "family," Police Sgt. Ken Hatter said at a news conference.
He said the teens sneaked into the pond area “in the middle of the night” and pounced on the bird as she was nesting. “She wasn’t fighting back, and they were able to capture her,” he said, adding that the swan was killed at the pond.
Hatter said the teenagers initially believed the swan was “just a very large duck.”
After they killed the bird, the teens took its remains back to the house of one of their aunts, where it was cooked, Hatter said in separate comments, according to The Associated Press.
The four cygnets were found safe and are in the care of a biologist tasked with overseeing the health and well-being of Manlius’ swans, Hatter said at the news conference.
The teenagers were arrested Tuesday after someone spotted two baby swans in a store in nearby Salina and called authorities, Hatter said.
One of the suspects, a juvenile who was working at the store, confessed to having taken the birds along with two other teenagers, he said. The suspect spoke of planning to raise the birds as pets and had no plans to eat them.
The three teens face grand larceny, criminal mischief and other charges, Hatter said. Two are juveniles, he said. The third, who is 18, had a hunting license, he said.
Hunting swans is legal in a number of states, but New York is not one of them.
Manlius has been known for its swans for more than a century, with its swan pond long serving as a local landmark and signs and banners across the village emblazoned with an image of the bird.
"We’ve had swans for over 100 years. We’re going to continue to have swans. It’s part of this village," Mayor Paul Whorrall said at the news conference.
Faye is not the only swan who will be missing from the pond, however. Whorrall said her mate, Manny, is expected to be moved to another location because of concerns over how he will react to having lost his partner.
The pair had called the village pond their home for over a decade.
Swans, Whorrall noted, are known to form monogamous bonds and can "mate forever" with a single partner. With Faye gone, he said, there is a possibility Manny could become "combative" and pose a threat to the four cygnets once they are returned to the pond.
"We will let the four cygnets grow up, and we are hoping that two of those cygnets will mate, and then we will be back to the way it used to be," Whorrall said.
Social media users expressed sadness, one writing on Twitter: “This is actually devastating. These swans are not only part of the fabric of the Village of Manlius, they’re a special part of this entire community.”
“I’m crushed and I know others are feeling the same,” the person said.
Whorrall said steps were being taken to ensure the safety of the swans, including placing security cameras around the pond.
“This is not ending. We will continue to have swans and hopefully at some point get back to normal," he said.