Bewicks Swan – Profile | Traits | Migration | Call | Diet | Breeding

Bewicks swan

Bewick’s swan or Bewicks swan was named in 1830 by William Yarrell after the engraver Thomas Bewick, who specialized in illustrations of birds and animals. Cygnus is the Latin for “swan”, and columbianus comes from the Columbia River, the kind locality.

The Bewick’s Swan is discovered within the Kola Peninsula east all through arctic northern Siberia. They winter in Western Europe, south of the Caspian Sea and east China, Korea, and Japan.

Bewicks swan Distribution

The breeding range of C. c. bewickii extends throughout the coastal lowlands of Siberia, from the Kola Peninsula east to the Pacific. They start to reach the breeding grounds around mid-May and depart for winter quarters around the end of September.

The populations west of the Taimyr Peninsula migrate by way of the White Sea, Baltic Sea, and the Elbe estuary to winter in Denmark, the Netherlands, and the British Isles.

They are frequent in winter within the wildfowl nature reserves of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Some birds additionally winter elsewhere on the southern shores of the North Sea. Bewick’s swans breeding in eastern Russia migrate by way of Mongolia and northern China to winter within the coastal areas of Korea, Japan, and southern China, south to Guangdong, and infrequently so far as Taiwan.

A couple of birds from the central Siberian range additionally winter in Iran on the south of the Caspian Sea; in former instances, these flocks additionally migrated to the Aral Sea before the late twentieth-century ecological disaster turned a lot of the habitat there into an inhospitable wasteland.

Arrival in winter quarters begins about mid-October, although most spend weeks and even months at favorite resting areas and can solely arrive in winter quarters by November and even as late as January. The birds depart winter quarters to breed beginning in mid-February.

Vagrants might happen south of the main wintering range in chilly years and have been recorded from most European countries the place the birds don’t repeatedly winter, in addition to Algeria, Iraq, Palestine, Libya, Nepal, NE Pakistan, and on the Marianas and Volcano Islands within the western Pacific.

Vagrants on the spring migration have been sighted on Bear Island, Iceland, and Svalbard, and in Alaska, Oregon, and Saskatchewan in North America.

Bewick's swan, Bewicks swan

Bewicks swan Description

Bewick’s swans are the smaller subspecies. There is a slight size cline, with the eastern birds being barely bigger; good measurement information solely exists for the western populations nonetheless.

These weigh 3.4–7.8 kg (7.5–17.2 lb), 6.4 kg (14 lb) on average in males, and 5.7 kg (13 lb) in females. They measure 115–140 cm (45–55 in) in total size; every wing is 46.9–54.8 cm (18.5–21.6 in) long, on average 51.9 cm (20.4 in) in males and 50.4 cm (19.8 in) in females.

The tarsus measures 9.2–11.6 cm (3.6–4.6 in) in size, the bill 8.2–10.2 cm (3.2–4.0 in), averaging 9.1 cm (3.6 in). Bewick’s swan is analogous in look to the parapatric whooper swan (C. cygnus), however, is smaller, shorter-necked, and has a more rounded head form, with variable bill pattern, however at all times displaying more black than yellow and having a blunt ahead fringe of the yellow base patch.

Whooper swans have a bill that has more yellow than black and the ahead fringe of the yellow patch is often pointed. The bill pattern for each individual Bewick’s swan is exclusive, and scientists usually make detailed drawings of every bill and assign names to the swans to help with learning these birds.

The eastern birds, aside from being bigger, have a tendency in direction of much less yellow on the bill, maybe indicating that gene movement throughout Beringia, whereas marginal, by no means totally ceased. An obvious case of hybridization between a Bewick’s and a vagrant whistling swan has been reported from eastern Siberia.

The adult plumage is totally white; nonetheless, these swans that inhabit waters wealthy in iron ions (equivalent to lavatory lakes), the pinnacle and neck plumage might present a golden or rusty hue.

The feet are typically black – though within the Bewick’s Swan particularly hardly ever yellowish feet have been noticed.

The bill is generally black, with a skinny orangey streak operating alongside the mouthline and – relying on the subspecies – more or much less yellow on the higher half of the higher beak. The eyes are darkish brown.

Females are barely smaller than the males, however are in any other case equivalent in look.

The down of chicks is silvery gray above and white below. Immatures have a white plumage blended with some boring gray totally on the pinnacle and higher neck, which regularly are totally light gray.

The first summer season plumage is generally white and in the course of the second winter, they attain the adult plumage. Their bills are black with a big flesh-colored patch on the higher half of the higher bill below the often black nostrils. The feet are darkish gray with a flesh-colored hue.


The oldest recorded Bewick’s Swan was over 24 years old. However, the average life expectancy of the Bewick’s Swan dwelling within the wild is about 10 years, as about 15% of adults die every year from varied causes, equivalent to looking, lead poisoning, and predation.


Smallest of the three white swan species occurring in Ireland, with the yellow and black bill (yellow on the base, often rounded or sq., and never reaching the nostril or extending alongside the sides, as in Whooper Swan). Neck additionally shorter than Whooper Swan.


During the breeding season, these swans sleep on land; however, within the winter, they usually sleep on the water.

Outside the breeding season, Bewick’s Swans are typically fairly sociable and collect in giant flocks of tons of and even hundreds.

When breeding, nonetheless, they are typically aggressive and territorial; and often unfold out to nest. Although some flocks should still happen to consist of non-breeding adults and birds which can be too younger to breed.


Similar to Whooper Swan, however more yapping or honking and fewer buglings

Bewicks swan Diet

Plant materials together with tubers, shoots, and leaves and so they forage in water or flooded pasture.

Bewick’s Swans primarily feed on the seeds, roots, and stems of aquatic crops, equivalent to mannagrass (Glyceria), pondweeds (Potamogeton), marine eelgrass (Zostera), and Glyceria. sedges, reeds (Phragmites and Typha) in addition to herbaceous tundra vegetation.

They can even feed on the occasional small invertebrate, together with mollusks and arthropods, and polychaete worms.

They additionally eat some grass rising on dry land.

Swans feed totally on aquatic crops; however, they also eat grain, grasses, and crop meals, equivalent to wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, and carrots – particularly within the winter when different meal sources aren’t available.

Only younger cygnets (immature swans) eat aquatic bugs and crustaceans, as they have got a higher requirement for protein than the adults. As they grow old, their diet modifications over to a plant diet, which incorporates aquatic vegetation and roots.

They forage primarily by day each on land and in water. They have usually noticed feeding in flocks.

In shallow water, Swans might use their sturdy webbed feet to dig into submerged mud and, like mallards, they tip up – plunging the pinnacle and neck underwater – to show and feed on roots, shoots, and tubers.

They feed in waters by uprooting crops and snapping off the leaves and stems of crops rising underwater.

Swans additionally forage by swimming selecting up plant materials from the water’s floor or water’s edge. On land, they feed on grains and grasses.

Cygnets feed on invertebrates and aquatic vegetation stirred up by their foraging parents. Ducks and different water birds additionally usually comply with swans to forage on uncovered plant matter and aquatic bugs.

Bewick's swan, Bewicks swan

Bewicks swan Voice

Bewick’s Swans make high-pitched honking calls that sound just like these of the black goose (Branta). They are notably noisy when foraging in flocks.

They make loud excited calls when different swans arrive or depart. While in flight, the Bewick’s Swan makes low and soft ringing bark bow-wow calls; whereas the Bewicks Swan makes high-pitched bark-like sounds: wow-wow-wow.

The Whooper and Trumpeter Swans make deep hooting and a higher-pitched French horn-like honk vocalization, which serves as one technique of identification.

Bewicks swan Reproduction

Breeds throughout low-lying open grassy or swampy tundra of Arctic Siberia adjoining pools, lakes, or rivers. The time from laying to hatching is 29–30 days for Bewick’s swan and 30–32 days for the whistling swan.

Since they nest in chilly areas, Bewicks swan cygnets develop quicker than these of swans breeding in hotter climates; these of the whistling swan takes about 60–75 days to fledge—twice as quick as these of the mute swan for instance—

whereas these of Bewick’s swan, about which little breeding information is understood, might fledge a record 40–45 days after hatching already. The fledglings stick with their parents for the first winter migration.

The family is usually even joined by their offspring from earlier breeding seasons whereas on the wintering grounds; Bewick’s swans don’t attain sexual maturity till 3 or 4 years of age.

A pair establishes and defends a territory by which they elevate their youthful and feed. This territory is about 1.29 sq. km, which includes land and an enormous body of water.

After laying her eggs, the female tends to clutch practically all the time by sitting on her eggs. When the female is absent, the male sits on the eggs. Whistling swans have a precise mechanism of changeover.

The parent swan that is leaving the eggs stands and pokes downwards on the eggs a few situations, after which walks off. Then, the parent that is returning to the nest quickly sits on the eggs.

The male is on a regular basis more reluctant to come back off of the eggs. During a changeover, the male does many of the addition of the nest supplies around the sides and the underside of the nest.

During the moment the change happens, the male offers nest supplies around the sides and the underside of the nest.

The female rearranges the nest supplies. This changeover of labor is commonly quiet. The completely different parent usually stays shut by to take a look at for predators. The incubation interval is 31 to 33 days.

After the eggs hatch, the parental roles are a lot much less distinct. Both sexes deal with the cygnets and assist them with getting meals and chasing off predators.

However, cygnets adjust to their mother, protect her nearer to her, and work collectively together with her more than the daddy. Both parents generally tend to stay shut to at least one other and their offspring via the pre-fledging interval.

Young swans can start flying around 60 to 75 days after hatching. Cygnets do not depart their parents until 2 years of age. Sometimes siblings rejoin their family, with or without a mate.

The feminine lays 2 – 7 creamy-white eggs (often 3-5), that are incubated for 29 – 30 days for the Bewick’s Swan. Very hardly ever, the male might assist in brooding the eggs.

In most circumstances, it’s the feminine who broods the eggs, whereas the male stays close by to defend the nest against intruders and predators.

During the incubation interval, the feminine leaves the nest just for quick intervals to feed on close by vegetation, bathe and preen her feathers – nonetheless, before doing so, she often covers the eggs with nesting materials to hide them.

The male can even stay close by to discourage predators. If a perceived predator approaches the nest, both one of many parents will give a warning call to alert the opposite of the hazard. They might lay a second clutch if the first eggs or cygnets are lost.

The younger hatch about 29 – 32 days later. The hatchlings’ eyes are open and they’re coated with down. They are in a position to depart the nest within 24 hours of hatching and have the power to swim and feed.
Bewick's swan, Bewicks swan
The juvenile Bewick’s Swan fledges 40–45 days after hatching. The younger stay with their parents for the first winter migration. The offspring of earlier years might be a part of them on the wintering grounds.

Bewick’s Swans attain reproductive maturity when they’re about 3 – 4 years old; nonetheless, they’ll often discover their mates before the age of two, largely in the course of the winter season. They start breeding when they’re 3 – 7 years old.

In late September, the younger swans take day-by-day practice flights in preparation for the winter migration. These flights are initially quick, however get longer because the younger grows stronger.

Just before the water begins to freeze, they’ll migrate south to the wintering areas. Family teams and mated pairs often follow themselves.

The immature swans stay with their parents all through the winter and migrate with them to their breeding territory in spring. The cygnets are about one year old then, and the parents drive them away as they’re preparing for nesting.

The younger swans stay collectively in sibling teams till they’re about two years old, at which era, they themselves begin their seek for mates. Some might return to their parents after the breeding season. Their family bonds are typically sturdy.

Bewicks swan Migration

The Bewick’s Swans travel on particular routes with particular stop-over sites from their Arctic breeding ranges to the temperate wintering grounds. They often fly in V formation at altitudes of about 8 km (practically 27,000 ft) (Ref. National Geographic).

Small teams of them arrive on their breeding grounds (often between early March to late June); the place breeding pairs will separate from the flock and disperse to their favored nesting sites. Some might nest in small teams in optimum habitats.

After breeding, between late June and September, Bewick’s Swans will bear a molt which is able to depart them flightless for a few months. During this time, they’ll often gather in flocks on open waters as they’d be weak to predation on land.

In mid-October, family teams will often start their migration to their wintering grounds. They might stay at their ordinary stop-over sites (equivalent to shallow ponds, lowland and mountain lakes, reservoirs, riverine marshes, shallow saline lagoons, and sheltered coastal bays and estuaries) for as long because the climate circumstances are favorable. Most arrive in their wintering range by November / December.


Low-lying moist pasture, lakes, ponds, and stubble. The majority of the European population winters in Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain.

One of the potential causes that the species has declined in Ireland is that Bewick’s Swans discover appropriate sites in these countries and not need to fly as far west as Ireland.


Increasingly uncommon winter visitors from Siberia from November to March at wetlands in Counties Wexford and around Lough Neagh.

Bewicks swan Threats

Hunting: The Bewick’s Swans are typically protected, aside from restricted looking seasons in sure areas. The principal explanation for adult mortality is looking.

Lead poisoning attributable to the ingestion of lead photographs additionally results in important mortality.

Habitat destruction and air pollution result in a discount of the aquatic vegetation of their winter habitats.

Predation: Nesting females, their younger and eggs are preyed upon by foxes, weasels, wolves, raccoons, bears, people, and seabirds, equivalent to jaegers and gulls. Nesting parents will often depart their nest when giant predators are an insight to not draw consideration to their nest.

Bewick's swan, Bewicks swan

Bewicks Swan Conservation

Woodcut by Robert Elliot Bewick of the swan named in reminiscence of his father by William Yarrell. 1847 version of Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds.

The whistling swan is the commonest swan species of North America, estimated to quantity nearly 170,000 people around 1990.

Its numbers appear to be slowly declining within the west of its range because the late nineteenth century, coincident with the enlargement of human settlement and habitat conversion within the birds’ wintering areas; the eastern Whistling Swan populations alternatively appear to be growing considerably, and altogether its numbers appear to have barely risen within the late twentieth century (the population was estimated at about 146,000 in 1972).

Bewick’s Swan stays far much less identified; though its population is in decline in northwestern Europe, for presently unexplained causes. The European winter population was estimated at 16,000–17,000 about 1990, with about 20,000 birds wintering in East Asia.

The Iranian wintering population is small—1,000 birds or so at most—however they often disperse to a number of sites, a few of that are nonetheless unknown to scientists.

Although Bewick’s swan numbers are stable over most of their range, they’re more and more dependent on agricultural crops to complement their winter diet, as aquatic vegetation of their winter habitat dwindles resulting from habitat destruction and water air pollution.

But the main explanation for adult mortality is looking; 4,000 whistling swans are bagged formally every year, whereas an additional 6,000–10,000 are killed by poachers and native subsistence hunter-gatherers.

Bewick’s swan can’t be hunted legally, however nearly half the birds studied contained lead shots of their body, indicating they had been shot at by poachers.

Lead poisoning by ingestion of lead shot is a really important explanation for mortality additionally, notably within the whistling swan. The Bewicks swan isn’t thought-about threatened by the IUCN resulting from its giant range and population.

The proposed subspecies jankowskii was for a while positioned on CITES Appendix II; it was ultimately eliminated since it isn’t typically accepted as legitimate.

Bewick’s swan is one of the birds to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

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