Whooper Swan – Profile | Traits | Facts | Range | Diet | Breeding

Whooper swan

The whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, also referred to as the common swan, pronounced hooper swan is a big northern hemisphere swan. It is the Eurasian counterpart of the North American trumpeter swan and the kind species for the genus Cygnus.

Francis Willughby and John Ray’s Ornithology of 1676 referred to this swan as “the Elk, Hooper, or wild Swan”. The scientific name is from cygnus, the Latin for “swan”.

Whooper swan Overview

The Mute Swan has a long S-shaped neck and an orange bill with black on the base of it. The Whooper Swan additionally has a long skinny neck, which it normally holds erect.

Its black bill has a big triangular patch of yellow on it. The distinction within the beak between the 2 species is a distinguishing function.

Whooper swans have a deep honking call and, regardless of their size, are highly effective fliers. Whooper swans can migrate a whole bunch and even hundreds of miles to their wintering sites in southern Europe and eastern Asia. They breed in subarctic Eurosiberia, additional south than Bewicks within the taiga zone.

They are uncommon breeders in northern Scotland, notably in Orkney, and no more than 5 pairs have bred there in recent times; a handful of pairs have additionally bred in Ireland in recent times.

This bird is an occasional vagrant to the Indian Subcontinent and western North America. Icelandic breeders overwinter within the United Kingdom and Ireland, particularly within the wildfowl nature reserves of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Both female and male whooper swans have white plumage with black webbed feet and legs. Their beaks are orange-yellow on the base with a black tip.

The markings on their beak can be utilized to distinguish between people. In the spring and summer, adults might develop darkish neck plumage as a consequence of their iron-rich environment.

Juveniles have downy grey-brown plumage with a pink and black-tipped beak. Adult whooper swans are massive birds, with an average size of 1.4 to 1.65 m and a wingspan of two.05 to 2.75 m.

Male weights range from 7.4 to 14 kg with an average of 9.8 kg, which is way heavier than the feminine weight range of 8.2 to 9.2 kg. The highest recorded mass was 15.5 kg for a wintering male swan in Denmark.

Aside from body mass, males will also be differentiated from females by their longer and thinner necks. An in-depth relative of whooper swans is the smaller, shorter-necked Bewick swans.

These swans could be differentiated by beak color. Whooper swans have more orange-yellow beak markings whereas Bewick swans have more black markings.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Whooper swan Geographic Range

Whooper swans, Cygnus cygnus have an in-depth geographic range and could be discovered throughout the boreal zone in Eurasia and many nearby islands.

Boreal situations typically embrace chilly winters, brief summers, and dramatic seasonal temperature variations. Whooper swans breed in countries similar to Iceland, Ireland, and Great Britain and migrate within the winter to countries similar to China, Korea, and Japan. Some migratory populations could be present in India and western North America.

Whooper swan Habitat

Whooper swans breed and arrange nests alongside the banks of freshwater lakes, swimming pools, shallow rivers, marshes, bogs, and swamps.

They favor habitats with emergent vegetation, which can present extra safety for nests and new child cygnets. In Iceland, they’re generally present in habitats starting from sea level to an elevation of 700 m.

Non-breeding pairs of swans could be discovered close to sheltered estuaries, lagoons, and shallow bays. Migrating whooper swans fly at altitudes of 500 to 1,700 m when crossing oceans, however typically favor flying at lower ranges to permit frequent breaks between flights. Near the British Isles, migrating whooper swans have been recorded reaching heights above 8,000 m.


Adult whooper swans can live for many years. They have a small annual mortality rate as soon as they’re past the first few weeks after hatching. One common reason behind loss of life happens when wild whooper swans resolve to proceed to feed off of agricultural cereal grains as a substitute for migrating south to feed on aquatic vegetation.

This shift in behavior has resulted in whooper swans freezing to loss of life. However, the best reason behind adult and juvenile deaths are the results of flying accidents.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Whooper swan Description

The whooper swan is analogous in look to Bewick’s swan. It is bigger, nevertheless, at a size of 140–165 centimeters (55–65 inches) and a wingspan of 205–275 cm (81–108 in).

The weight is usually within the range of seven.4–14.0 kilograms (16 1⁄4–30 3⁄4 pounds), with an average of 9.8–11.4 kg (21 1⁄2–25 1⁄4 lb) for males and eight.2–9.2 kg (18–20 1⁄4 lb) for females.

The verified record mass was 15.5 kg (34 1⁄4 lb) for a wintering male from Denmark. It is taken into account to be amongst the heaviest flying birds. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 56.2–63.5 cm (22 1⁄8–25 in), the tarsus is 10.4–13.0 cm (4 3⁄32–5 1⁄8 in) and the bill is 9.2–11.6 cm (3.6–4.6 in).

Whooper swan has a more angular head form and a more variable bill pattern that at all times exhibits more yellow than black (Bewick’s swans have more black than yellow). Like their shut relations, whooper swans are vocal birds with a call just like the trumpeter swan.

Whooper swans require massive areas of water to live in, particularly when they’re nonetheless rising, as a result of their bodyweight can’t be supported by their legs for prolonged durations of time.

The whooper swan spends a lot of its time swimming, straining the water for meals, or consuming crops that develop on the underside.

Whooper swan Food Habit

Whooper swans feed in shallow bodies of water and devour aquatic crops and roots. Cygnets feed on small bugs and different invertebrates to fulfill their high protein necessities for correct growth and growth.

In shallow recent waters, whooper swans use their webbed feet to dig within the mud after which dip their head into the water to feed on shallow roots and tubers.

Parents additionally assist cygnets feed by stirring up the water column to make aquatic vegetation more accessible. Whooper swans can even feed in terrestrial habitats or close to saltwater tidal environments. In freshwater techniques, their foraging exercise peaks within the morning and afternoon.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Whooper swans that favor feeding in saltwater techniques have foraging peaks throughout the time hole between morning and afternoon.

Feeding is more durable throughout high tide, so whooper swans favor relaxation at high tide and feed throughout the low tide. Terrestrial foraging behaviors are affected by day size, temperature, and security.

When days are brief, chilly, and darkish, whooper swans are much less energetic and forage much less compared to days that are longer, hotter, and brighter.

In areas with farming, similar to Denmark and northern Germany, whooper swans feed on crops throughout the winter. In central Scotland, swans that depend on agricultural land feed on leftover grains in autumn after which feed on grass from mid-winter till spring.

The majority of whooper swans consumed freshwater roots, stems, and leaves, and the remaining minority feed on mussels in shallow marine waters.

Whooper swan Behavior

Whooper swans are territorial throughout the summer however social throughout the winter. Whooper swans could be discovered residing in flocks close to wetlands.

Larger flocks of more than 40 people are more common from October to November, whereas smaller flocks of fewer than 30 people are more common from January to early spring.

There is a social hierarchy with bigger households on the top, monogamous pairs within the center, and unpaired people on the backside.

Dominant birds can feed for the longest time period, and people typically search to hitch flocks for added safety.

Aggressive males might also trigger one family to be more dominant over one other family of equal size. Cygnets not often provoke flight, however, they take part in pre-flight signaling to speak with their parents.

Whooper swan Flight

When whooper swans put together to go on a flight as a flock, they use a wide range of signaling actions to speak with one another.

These actions embrace head bobs, head shakes, and wing flaps and affect whether or not the flock will take flight and if that’s the case, which individual will take the lead.

Whooper swans that signaled with these actions in massive teams have been discovered to have the ability to persuade their flock to comply with the 61% of the time

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

. In comparability, swans that didn’t signal have been solely capable of creating a following 35% of the time.

In most instances, the whooper swan within the flock that makes probably the most actions (head bobs) can also be the swan that initiates the flight of the flock – this initiator swan could be both male or feminine, but is more more likely to be a parent than a cygnet.

Additionally, this signaling methodology could also be a manner for paired mates to remain collectively in flight.

Observational proof signifies {that a} swan whose mate is taking note of and participates in its partner’s indicators will probably be more more likely to follow by with the flight.

Thus, if a whooper swan begins initiating flight indicators, it is going to be much less more likely to truly carry by with the flight if its mate just isn’t paying consideration and is due to this fact much less more likely to be part of it.


They are very noisy; the calls are strident, just like these of Bewick’s swan however more resonant and lower-pitched on average: kloo-kloo-kloo in teams of three or 4.

Whooper swan Reproduction

Whooper swans are monogamous and kind lifelong pairs. In some instances, people will discover a new mate if their partner dies. Whooper swans could be territorial throughout the breeding season.

Rivals generally struggle savagely by beating their wings and, relying on their location, both grounds staring or head-plunging.

Courtship shows can start within the winter, but most happen in the summertime. Males and females typically bob their heads up and down as a greeting after which, with our bodies going through one another, flip their necks from left to right as they beat their wings fervently.

Before copulation happens, pre-copulation shows are brief and embrace head dipping and thrusting of their neck and chest into the water. Copulation is brief and lasts around a minute.

During copulation, the male grasps the feminine’s nape. Certain pairs take part in post-copulation preening.

Whooper swans breed as soon as a year, their breeding season begins in late April and early May. The earliest eggs are laid in late April, but the majority of eggs are laid in May.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Whooper swan eggs are massive and elliptical with an off-white coloration. Older eggs might develop into stained and switch brown after a number of days as a consequence of nest situations and iron-rich waters.

A single clutch is laid per year. Clutch sizes rely on the age of the pair and the useful resource availability of their chosen breeding site. Younger {couples} are usually inexperienced and lay smaller clutches.

Nests are sometimes located on a big mound close to a body of recent water with riparian vegetation close by for cover. Incubation lasts around 30 to 32 days and hatching begins from June to early July.

Not all pairs lay eggs, and never all eggs hatch. Cygnets are precocial and are coated with down feathers after they hatch. They go away from the nest 2 to three days after hatching.

After three months, chicks start to fledge and are capable of fly at 78 to 96 days. Fledglings develop into unbiased after a year and develop into sexually mature after about 4 years, which is an uncommonly long time.

Cygnet growth charges are impacted strongly by habitat quality and food availability.

Whooper swans pair for all times, and their cygnets stick with all of the winter; they’re generally joined by offspring from earlier years. Their most popular breeding habitat is wetland, but semi-domesticated birds will construct a nest anyplace near water.

Both the female and male assist construct the nest, and the male will stand guard over the nest whereas the feminine incubates. The feminine will normally lay 4–7 eggs (exceptionally 12).

The cygnets hatch after about 36 days and have a gray or brown plumage. The cygnets can fly at an age of 120 to 150 days.

After the first egg is laid, the feminine’s essential precedence is incubation and the male’s precedence is defending the nest and the encircling territory. Swans have long incubation durations.

Males not often incubate the eggs, but they vigilantly guard the nest by remaining inside 50 to 100 m from the nest. When females take incubation breaks to feed, the eggs are capable of preserve a continuing temperature as a consequence of their bigger size, which helps decrease warmth loss.

The size of incubation breaks increases as eggs mature, and incubation stops fully a number of days before hatching. The first few days after hatching, cygnets stay near the nest the place they’re taken care of by the feminine.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Unlike their shut relative, trumpeter swans, whooper swans don’t carry their younger on their backs. Mortality charges are high for cygnets as a consequence of susceptibility to chilly climate, predators, and insufficient feeding.

Parents assist cygnets feed and stay near them within the early phases of growth. Whooper cygnets keep inside shaded areas close to their parents till fledging.

Parental care declines as cygnets get older and parents start to spend much less time with their heads above water and more time feeding. In basic, males preserve a vigilant watch before hatching and females take over that position throughout fledging.

After fledging and before independence, the gap between cygnets and parents will increase because the younger develop into bolder and more adventurous. However, broods stay collectively even after fledging.

Interestingly, if an early freeze happens and cygnets should not but capable of fly, parents might go away their brood behind.

This typically leads to the cygnets’ loss of life as a result of the absence of parental steering. Cygnets are likely to migrate with their parents till one year of age, after which parents restart the reproduction cycle.

Whooper swan Predation

Resting whooper swans are capable of curl up on the ground to scale back publicity to chilly climates whereas nonetheless sustaining the power to open their eyes simply to spot predators.

Predators typically assault clutches by stealing one egg at a time when parents take incubation breaks to feed. Once whooper swans attain their adult size, the specter of predation decreases and most predation happens when cygnets are younger and rely closely on parental safety.

Due to their bigger size, whooper swans should not very agile on land and infrequently retreat into the water to be secure from terrestrial mammalian predators.

whooper swan, scientific name Cygnus cygnus, common swan, hooper swan

Whooper swan Ecosystem

Large portions of biomass are lost when whooper swans feed on their most popular submerged macrophyte, fennel pondweed; this stimulates the pondweed to develop at intermediate depths.

In distinction, their much less favored plant, clasping leaf pondweed grows at both shallow or deep depths. As such, whooper swans play a key position in impacting plant community buildings.

There have additionally been reported instances of nest parasitism by greylag geese and red-crested pochard birds that lay their eggs in whooper swan nests.


Human activities that threaten whooper swans embrace searching, egg poaching, and habitat degradation.

There have been conservation efforts to protect popular wetland sites from Iceland to China and legal guidelines that make searching the swans unlawful in Russia.

Conservation efforts have been fruitful because the standing of the species is taken into account as one among “least concern.”

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