identification of Whooper Swan

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Swans and Geese | Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus |  identification of Whooper Swan

Identification of Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus

The whooper swan is similar in appearance to the Bewick's swan. It is larger, however, at a length of 140–165 cm (55–65 in) and a wingspan of 205–275 cm (81–108 in). Weight typically is in the range of 7.4–14 kg (16–31 lb), with an average of 9.8–11.4 kg (22–25 lb) for males and 8.2–9.2 kg (18–20 lb) for females. The verified record mass was 15.5 kg (34 lb) for a wintering male from Denmark. It is considered to be amongst the heaviest flying birds. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 56.2–63.5 cm (22.1–25.0 in), the tarsus is 10.4–13 cm (4.1–5.1 in) and the bill is 9.2–11.6 cm (3.6–4.6 in). It has a more angular head shape and a more variable bill pattern that always shows more yellow than black (Bewick's swans have more black than yellow).

Distribution and behaviour

Whooper swans require large areas of water to live in, especially when they are still growing, because their body weight cannot be supported by their legs for extended periods of time. The whooper swan spends much of its time swimming, straining the water for food, or eating plants that grow on the bottom.

Whooper swans have a deep honking call and, despite their size, are powerful fliers. Whooper swans can migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles to their wintering sites in southern Europe and eastern Asia. They breed in subarctic Eurasia, further south than Bewicks in the taiga zone. They are rare breeders in northern Scotland, particularly in Orkney, and no more than five pairs have bred there in recent years; a handful of pairs have also bred in Ireland in recent years. This bird is an occasional vagrant to the Indian Subcontinent and western North America. Icelandic breeders overwinter in the United Kingdom and Ireland, especially in the wildfowl nature reserves of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Whooper swans pair for life, and their cygnets stay with them all winter; they are sometimes joined by offspring from previous years. Their preferred breeding habitat is wetland, but semi-domesticated birds will build a nest anywhere close to water. Both the male and female help build the nest, and the male will stand guard over the nest while the female incubates. The female will usually lay 4–7 eggs (exceptionally 12). The cygnets hatch after about 36 days and have a grey or brown plumage. The cygnets can fly at an age of 120 to 150 days.

When whooper swans prepare to go on a flight as a flock, they use a variety of signaling movements to communicate with each other. These movements include head bobs, head shakes, and wing flaps and influence whether the flock will take flight and if so, which individual will take the lead.Whooper swans that signaled with these movements in large groups were found to be able to convince their flock to follow them 61% of the time. In comparison, swans that did not signal were only able to create a following 35% of the time. In most cases, the whooper swan in the flock that makes the most movements (head bobs) is also the swan that initiates the flight of the flock – this initiator swan can be either male or female, but is more likely to be a parent than a cygnet. Additionally, this signaling method may be a way for paired mates to stay together in flight. Observational evidence indicates that a swan whose mate is paying attention to and participates in its partner’s signals will be more likely to follow through with the flight. Thus, if a whooper swan begins initiating flight signals, it will be less likely to actually carry through with the flight if its mate is not paying attention and is therefore less likely to join it.

Very noisy; the calls are strident, similar to those of Bewick’s Swan but more resonant and lower-pitched on average: kloo-kloo-kloo in groups of three or four.

The Whooper Swan  The Whooper Swan
The Whooper Swan has the most extensive range of all the world’s seven swan species. Mark Brazil investigates its biology, migratory habits, courtship and breeding behaviour and its role in the folklore and legend of the many countries where it occurs. This is a fascinating and wonderfully readable monograph in the highly collectable Poyser series.
Ducks, Geese and Swans Anseriformes

Ducks, Geese and Swans Anseriformes

The most authoritative and up-to-date survey avialable of this massive and well-known family of birds; a welcome addition to the Bird Families of the World series that is set to become a classic of ornithology
Highly illustrated, with specially commissioned colour plates by Mark Hulme, plus numerous maps, halftones, and line figures
Includes much new and previously unpublished data, compiled by a panel of experts from around the globe

Wildfowl and screamers belong to a highly diverse family of birds, confined to watery habitats. They are amongst the most attractive of birds and are very well-known to man, who has domesticated them, used their feathers for warm clothing and ornamentation, admired their flight, courtship and migration, caught them for food, maintained them in captivity for pleasure, and written about their doings in delightful children's stories, from Mother Goose to Jemima Puddleduck and Donald Duck. They occur throughout the world except Antarctica. Some are faithful to the same partner for life, others for only the few minutes of copulation. In some species, male and female make devoted parents, and yet there is one within the group whose female lays her eggs in the nests of others and never incubates. Diving as a method of obtaining food has evolved many times within the family. Most nest in the open but others in the tree-hole nests of woodpeckers and some in the ground burrows of rabbits or aardvarks. They may be highly social or solitary, defending a large territory.

Ducks, Geese and Swans begins with eight chapters giving an overview of the family, their taxonomy and evolution, feeding ecology, breeding strategies, social behaviour, movements and migrations, population dynamics, and conservation and management, followed by accounts of 165 species, written by a team of expert wildfowl specialists, describing each bird in its natural state and summarizing the published literature and recent research. Complementing the accounts are thirty specially commissioned colour plates by Mark Hulme, along with numerous black and white drawings illustrating behaviours, plus distribution maps for each species.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Swans and Geese | Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus |  identification of Whooper Swan

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