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Whooper Swan - BirdForum Opus

Adult
Photo © by Marc Delsalle
Merkem, Belgium, 29 January 2004
Cygnus cygnus

Identification

Length 140-165 cm, wingspan 205-235 cm, weight 7.5-12.7 kg

  • White body
  • Long thin neck
  • Tail short, wedge-shaped
  • Black legs
  • Black bill with large triangular yellow patch
  • Juveniles uniform pale grey-brown, with dull pinkish on bill where adults have yellow
Adult in flight
Photo © by Macswede
Ågesta, near Stockholm, Sweden, 10 October 2010

Similar Species

Mute Swan has a red bill, a longer, acutely pointed tail, and usually a more curved neck; juvenile Mutes also differ in darker brown admixed with some white feathers by winter. In Bewick's Swan the yellow on the beak has a rounded apex. Trumpeter Swan lacks the yellow on the bill, but is otherwise very similar, though the two species do not normally overlap in the wild.

Distribution

Juveniles in flight
Photo © by Annette Cutts
Martin Mere, Lancashire, 20 October 2010

Breeds in Iceland, in small numbers in coastal north Norway, in north-central and sparsely in south-central Sweden, north and east Finland and across Arctic Russia. In recent decades has begun to breed in Poland and Scotland, and an occasional breeder in Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus. The small numbers breeding in Scotland (and occasionally Northern Ireland) may originally have involved injured birds that have been prevented from migrating, but the recent population growth in the far north (10-15 pairs, mainly in Shetland) is more likely fuelled by immigration from the increasing Icelandic population.

Icelandic birds are only partially migratory with some birds wintering, particularly in the west. The remainder winter in Britain and Ireland. There is no significant evidence for any wintering in south and east England from the Continental breeding populations, which winter from coastal north Norway to the Baltic and west to northeast France, in parts of Central Europe and around the eastern Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas. Leave breeding grounds mid September-October and begin return movement in March-April, arriving in May.

Vagrancy

Wanders widely in severe winters and can turn up almost anywhere in Europe. Vagrant north to Svalbard and south to Israel and north Africa; also some records in western North America (mainly Alaska), when may be found together with Trumpeter Swans.

Taxonomy

This is a monotypic species[1].

Habitat

Breeds on lakes and pools in forest or on tundra, sometimes in river deltas, estuaries and sheltered sea inlets. In winter found in coastal areas or lakes and large rivers, often grazing in fields.

Behaviour

Nesting

Both sexes build the nest. The clutch of 4-7 eggs is incubated by the female for about 36 days. The cygnets can fly at an age of 120 to 150 days.

Diet

The diet includes aquatic plants, grass, and grain.

Vocalisation

Listen in an external program Listen to Whooper Swan voice clip

References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Carboneras, C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52807 on 24 September 2018).
  3. Madge, S. & Burn, H. (1988) Waterfowl. An identification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world. Houghton Mufflin, Boston.
  4. Todd, F. (1979). Waterfowl. Ducks, Geese & Swans of the World. Sea World, San Diego.
  5. RSPB

Recommended Citation

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