Bewick’s Swan

Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus bewickii) is a small European swan sometimes considered a subspecies of the Whistling Swan, forming the species Tundra Swan. It is named after the engraver Thomas Bewick who specialized in illustrations of birds and animals.

Bewick’s is the smallest of the three European swans, at 115-127cm length and a 170-195cm wingspan. It is similar in appearance to the Whooper Swan only smaller, shorter-necked and with a more rounded head shape, with variable bill pattern, but always showing more black than yellow (the other way round with Whooper Swans). The bill pattern for every bird is unique, and scientists make detailed drawings of each and give them names to assist with studying this species.

Bewick’s Swans breed in the wetlands of the Arctic, right across northern Russia from the Kola Peninsula east to the Pacific. They migrate via the White Sea, Estonia, the Elbe estuary to the Netherlands and Britain. They pair for life, and their cygnets stay with them all winter; they are sometimes joined by offspring from previous years.

Populations breeding in eastern Russia (roughly east of the Taimyr Peninsula) winter in Japan and China

They overwinter in England and Ireland, especially in the wildfowl nature reserves of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

These birds feed mainly by grazing on farmland. They have a high pitched honking call.