Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus

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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. 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.










Size: Whoopers are approximately the same size as mute swans, around 150cms in length. They can weigh up to 14kgs.Special features: Whooper swans have a yellow patch which extends along almost the full length of the beak. They tend to hold their necks much straighter than mute swans and they have a bugle-like call. Although most of the birds arriving in the UK come from Iceland, whooper swans also breed right across Scandinavia and Russia. Almost exclusively a winter visitor to Britain and Ireland from breeding grounds in Iceland and Scandinavia but has bred in Scotland; seen mainly from October to March. Similar size to mute swan but has black and yellow bill, triangular in profile; yellow wedge extends beyond nostrils. Holds neck upright. Usually seen in medium-sized flocks comprising many family groups; juvenile birds have pinkish buff plumage and pinkish white bills. FeeOften returns to traditional sites They form a superspecies with the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) of North America which has an all black bill. The yellow bill markings on the Whooper Swan are like a human fingerprint; they are all different and individual birds can be recognised by their bill pattern.


Where does it live?

Habitat: Usually found in damp grasslands, marshes, agricultural land, lakes and reservoirs.Breeding Boggy areas with pools and reedy upland lakes.
Wintering Lowland farmland near the coasts, flooded fields or lakes. Feeds on shallow water and land in day; roosts on open water.
Passage As for winter

Where to Observe It ?

Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and parts of East Anglia.

What does it eat?
Aquatic plants, grass, grain, potatoes roots of aquatic plants.


Whooper Swans breed in Iceland and the north of Europe and Asia. They migrate south in the winter to west and central Europe, to around the Black, Aral and Caspian Seas and to China and Japan.

The birds that winter in Scotland come from Iceland arriving around October and returning to Iceland during April.

What does it sound like?

A loud ‘whoop-whoop’ call, sounding trumpet-like from flocks.

When to see it

October to March Months seen: Late September to April when they migrate to the UK from Iceland.

Similar species

Bewick's swan, Mute swan