Saturday, 16 November 2013

Whooper Swan

Saturday's post follows on from yesterdays one and as promised I am sharing with you today the 
Whooper Swan (pronounced hooper), Cygnus cygnus.
 It is a large Northern Hemisphere swan, the Eurasian counterpart of the North American Trumpeter Swan.   An old name for the Whooper Swan is 'Elk'; it is so called in Francis Willughby and John Ray's Ornithology of 1676.   

As usual, I will add information throughout the photos and finish with a video. 

The above and below photos I have added so that you understand how far I was away from the Swans.

The Whooper Swan is similar in appearance to the Bewick's Swan. However, it is larger, at a length of 55–65 ins and a wingspan of 81–108 ins.  Weight typically is in the range of 16–31 lbs with an average of 22–25 lbs for males and 18–20
lbs for females.  The verified record mass was 34 lbs. for a wintering male from Denmark.  It is considered to be amongst the heaviest flying birds.  Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 22.1–25.0 ins, the tarsus is 4.1–5.1 ins and the bill is 3.6–4.6 ins.  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).

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 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. 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.

Whooper Swans have a deep honking call and, despite their size, are powerful fliers. 

Whooper Swan has been recorded migrating at altitudes up to 8,200m when the ambient temperatures is -40C.

Musical utterances by Whooper Swans at the moment of death have been suggested as the origin of the swan song legend.
  • Whooper Swans are much admired in Europe.
  • The Whooper Swan is the national bird of Finland and is featured on the Finnish 1 euro coin.
  • The Whooper Swan is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African- Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

The global spread of H5N1 reached the UK in April 2006 in the form of a dead Whooper Swan found in Scotland.


The yellow markings on their bills are like human fingerprints: they are all different.  Each individual bird can be recognised by its bill pattern.  I added this photos because the Swan front centre has a nob on his head!
A group of swans has these collective nouns including a ‘ballet’, ‘bevy’, ‘drift’, ‘regatta’, and ‘school’.

You can access the video at
If there is a black space below, click it and the video will appear.
Well I hope you are not disappointed when you read and see these magnificent flying machines.
They come to Northern Ireland every year to a few areas, this being one area.  The other day, at Islandhill, near Newtownards (about 5 miles away from my  home), I saw another 200-300 feeding in a field however I could not get anywhere near them.  There is another group that are found near Londonderry/Derry and although I have not seen them yet this year, you have a good view of them as you are travelling by train to that city.
Many thanks for visiting and leaving your comments.


  1. beautiful swans Margaret and very interesting to read reference to the 'swan song'

  2. HI Carole Glad you found the swans and information interesting. Thanks for comment.

  3. Beautiful pictures of wild swans, Margaret.
    Great weekend,
    Greetings Irma

  4. HI Irma Many thanks for you comment and I am glad you enjoyed the Swans. Have a great weekend.

  5. Another info filled and informative post Margaret, and some lovely scenes there of these beautiful birds. that's a cracking first image too...[;o)

  6. They are magnificent. Thanks for sharing them.

  7. when we arrived in our village 14 years ago there were three W Swans on the river who nested and lived tucked out of the way most of the time, they grew to 17 were culled and all but two moved to the Camargue we've now 9- beautiful post. (thank you for the P info)

    1. Hi Lynn Glad to knw that you have some hear you and thanks for comment.

  8. Fantastic post Margaret. To see so many in one place must have been very exciting.

  9. Wonderful photos and thanks for providing the information to go along with them.

  10. Great to see these at this time of year Margaret. Beautiful swans, along with their cousins, the Bewicks.

  11. Wonderful series of photos. Great post and info on your Whooper Swan, Margaret!

  12. lot's of great information and lovely images!! looks like a great place to visit!!

    have a wonderful weekend!!!

  13. for such heavy-bodied birds, they are impressive flyers. 'swan song' - how sad.

  14. Beautiful birds. That's interesting that their legs can't support their body weight for long periods of time. (I think I have the same problem.) :)

  15. They are magnificent, so many of them, beautiful Margaret, I love them.

  16. Great series and info... Such a graceful bird. :)

  17. beautiful swans, margaret! great info on your whooper swan too.

    happy weekend!

  18. Great video too. Enjoyed it very much.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  19. Wow!
    Margaret, the first time I've seen so many swans.
    I love these birds are so beautiful, majestic.
    I wish you a nice Sunday.

  20. So many of them! If I see five or six black swans at a time I think I have seen lots.
    Thank you.

  21. What magnificent beasts and what a privilege to see them like that. Beautiful.


  23. j'adore tes photos on se promène en pleine nature avec toi!
    C'est superbe!
    Very nice post! Thanks & Welcome for your comment and your visit to my blog.
    Have a nice day! Cath

  24. Lovely informative post and such beautiful swans! They don't visit Warks very often so a real treat to see your photos :)

  25. Swans are gorgeous! I've never seen this many swans in one place. We still have a large number of swans here too. They don't leave before it gets cold.

  26. Great video Margaret. I'm pleased you captured the calls of the Whoopers, there's nothing quite like ti on a wild and windy November day.