Thursday, 17 January 2013

Birds in Focus - Whooper and Bewick's Swans

The Whooper Swan is a large white swan, bigger than a Bewick's swan. It has a long thin neck, which it usually holds erect, and black legs. Its black bill has a large triangular patch of yellow on it. It is mainly a winter visitor to the UK from Iceland, although a couple of pairs nest in the north. The estuaries and wetlands it visits on migration and for winter roosts need protection. Its winter population and small breeding numbers make it an Amber List species.

Whooper Swan
They can be seen in Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and parts of East Anglia from October to March.  They eat aquatic plants, grass, grain and potatoes. Although about 11,000 Whooper Swans overwinter in the UK, there are only seven or less breeding pairs.

Whooper Swans in flight
Adult Bewick's Swans are white all over and young birds greyish with a pinkish bill. Compared to the similar Whooper Swan, these swans have proportionally more black and less yellow on their bill. They're also smaller than both Mute and Whooper Swans and have faster wingbeats.

Bewick's Swans
They're found mainly in eastern England, around the Severn estuary and in Lancashire. The Ouse and Nene Washes (Cambridgeshire), Martin Mere (Lancashire) and Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) are good places to see Bewick's swans.

Bewick's swans arrive in the UK in mid-October after breeding in Siberia. They spend the winter here in our comparatively warm climate, before departing in March.
Bewick's Swans in flight
In the UK, Bewick's swans feed in fields on leftover potatoes and grain. On their breeding grounds they eat aquatic plants and grass.  More tha 23,000 overwinter in the UK and there are around 7,000 breeding birds.

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