Since these migrant birds have started to become a bit of a feature on the Loch I decided to make them species of the day…
So, without further ado…
Whooper Swans Cygnus Cygnus
Whoopers are similar in appearance to Bewick Swans but are slightly larger at 140-160 cm with a wingspan of 205-275 cm. They also have a more angular head and a distinctive yellow bill bordered with black. They are quite heavy birds and usually weigh between 8 and 20 kg.
Whooper Swans need large areas of water to live in, as their legs cannot support their heavy body weight for long. They are migratory birds and travel to their breeding grounds in Iceland to Scotland, Ireland, Northern England and occasionally East Anglia. Whoopers traditionally winter on estuaries, marshes, floodplains and Lochs where there are plentiful supplies of aquatic insects. They tend to be site faithful and will return to the same wintering sites every year.
Whooper Swans tend to mate for life although very occasionally some will repair whilst their original mate is still alive. Pairing off can occur in winter flocks but it is more likely to happen during the spring in herds of individuals. Females usually lay between 4 and 7 eggs and cygnets hatch after around 31 days. Cygnets usually fledge around 90 days, just in time for the October migration. They usually fly with their parents and overwinter with them, but during their second winter, they migrate as individuals.
Whooper Swans are very vocal, and have two different types of calls. They have a sonorous honking call which is used during aggressive encounters and softer contact calls which are used as communication between pairs and families. Calls often accompany a distinctive head bobbing sequence which is used to maintain bonds between families and pairs. Several types of displays are used to establish dominance in wintering flocks ranging from low pecking movements to dramatic neck stretching and wing flapping displays. During courtship displays males and females face each other flicking their wings and turning heads.
Here’s their ditinctive ‘whooping’ Call: