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October 12, 2018: Whooper Swans, Northumberland


Not to be confused with the common Mute Swan that’s ever present on our waterways 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.


It is mainly a winter visitor to the UK from Iceland, although a small number 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. It is a Schedule 1 listed bird.


Two species of swan come to the UK each winter: whooper swans migrate from Iceland, and Bewick's swans make the journey from Siberia.  They both have yellow and black bills and can be difficult to separate; the patterns are unique to each individual bird and can be used to tell them apart.  The yellow on a whooper swan's bill forms a pointed 'v' shape on either side. They are bigger birds than Bewick's swans and have a honking voice which can sound like an old-fashioned car horn!  Bewick's swans have more oval, rounded yellow patches on either side of their bill. They are the smallest swan species to visit the UK, not very much bigger than a Canada goose. Their calls are more reminiscent of an excited dog.


For a list of Ian Cook's photography and TravelGumbo contributions, please click on this link


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