Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

A whooper swan is a large migratory bird and the most elegant in the swan lineage. They have pure white plumage, and their legs along with their webbed feet are black.

Half of the beak is orange-yellow at the base and black at the tip. The beak design varies between individual birds and can be identified by their patterns.

Their infants are mostly white, but a few are grey.

Scientific classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusCygnus
SpeciesCygnus cygnus

Distribution

Whooper swans are widespread. They can be seen in the boreal region within Eurasia, and they migrate hundreds of miles to winter sites in eastern Asia as well as southern Europe.

Most swan whoopers situated in Western North America and the Indian sub-continent, are migratory birds. Whooper swans mate and built nests by the river basins, lakes, shallow rivers, swamps and bogs.

They prefer areas with evolving vegetation, which can protect their nests and newborn cygnets.

Habitat and Lifestyle

Whooper swans are active throughout the day, nourishing on the water, and they also graze on the earth.

They are territorial during the summer, but social in the winter. These swans live near wetlands in flocks.

Larger flocks of over 40 birds are common between October and November, while smaller flocks of under 30 are more widespread between January and early spring.

There is a social hierarchy, with the larger families at the top and couples at the middle, while birds at the bottom are unpaired. Dominant swans eat longer, and other whooper swans try to join a flock in order to be secured or safe.

Aggressive male swans may increase the superiority of one family over another.

Diets

Whooper swan feeds on nourishing aquatic plants and roots in shallow water. The young birds (cygnet) eat small insects and abundant invertebrates to fulfil their fast growth and satisfy their high protein demand.

Reproduction

Whooper Swan

Whooper swan is monogamous birds and makes life pairs. They show affection to each other with their wings half open in an uplifted position, and each whooper swan alternatively bends to elongate its neck.

These displays are followed by loud trumpeting call, and during the nesting season, the whooper swan strongly defends its habitat. The mating period takes place between the end of April and the beginning of May.

Whooper swans are sole nesters, and their nest are placed on a big mound, usually made of plant material, such as moss and lichens. Nests are built near the sea, on islands and shores of the lake.

The females lay 4 – 5 eggs, and the mother’s incubation lasts approximately 35 days, while the male guards the region. Cygnets are catered for till the age of three months and can fly when they are 4 – 5 months older.

Cygnets rarely fly but engage in pre-flight signals to communicate with their mother and dad. They become independent and sexually matured after 48 months.

Threat

Human activities that threaten whooper swans include the reclamation of the island and coastal wetlands, particularly in Asia.

Other activities such as hunting, nest destruction, illegal wildlife procurement and loss of living space and degradation are also activities that endanger whooper swans.

Habitat risks for whoopers cover cultivation, overgrazing of livestock, irrigation drainage of wetland areas, winter vegetation reduction of livestock feed, trailing improvements, and oil contamination resulting from oil discovery, exploitation, transportation, and tourism disturbances.

Population

The Birdlife resource says the world’s Whooper swan population is 180,000with the population projected in Russia to be 10,000 – 100,000 pairs and about 1,000 – 10,000 individual birds in the winter region.

The population of Europe is estimated at 25,300 – 32,800 pairs, which corresponds to  50,600 – 65,500 mature individuals. In general, Whooper swans are currently listed on the IUCN red list radar as least concern (LC).

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