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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

EXTERNAL APPEARANCES

REPRODUCTION

BEHAVIOUR

NATURAL DIET

RANGE & HABITAT

CONSERVATION

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(Waterfowl)

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Zwergschwan (German)
Cygne de Bewick (French)
Cisne de Bewick (Spanish)
Bewick's Swan - Cygnus columbianus bewickii / Cygnus bewickii
Jankowski's Swan - Cygnus columbianus jankowskii (race/subspecies)
Whistling Swan - Cygnus columbianus columbianus / Cygnus columbianus
Pfeifschwan (German)
Cygne siffleur (French)
Cisne silbador (Spanish)
Cisne chico (Spanish)
Klein Zwann (Dutch)
Mindre sangsvan (Swedish)
Olor bewickii
Olor columbianus

Names for newly-hatched

Cygnet, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases

Male swan often called "Cob".

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References

Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B4, B8, B9, B19, B25, B26, B27

Aviculture references:
J23.13.w7
B7, B10.26.w2, B29, B30, B40, B94, B95, B96, B97, B108, B128.w4 B129
D1

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information

Notes

General information:
  • Swans are generally aggressive and territorial, particularly while breeding, and each pair should be maintained in a separate pen, away from other swans, geese and large ducks, although the pen may be shared with small ducks, as these are usually ignored by most swan pairs. Fences adjoining other pens should be solid or screened with vegetation to avoid injury from swans trying to fight each other through wire fencing, and should be as tall as the swans themselves, to prevent fighting over the top of the fence.
  • Swans may be best kept on a large area of natural water containing aquatic vegetation, and the surrounding land. For a single pair, a pen of at least 400 square metres is suggested, of which half the area should be water and half grazing land. Banks should be at a shallow angle to allow easy entry to and exit from the water; this is particularly important if cygnets are to be parent reared. More than one pair may be kept in very large parks where each pair can establish a breeding territory. Swans appreciate water weed and grass, but other green foods such as lettuce and cabbage may be used as substitutes if necessary. They are relatively slow eaters and care should be taken in mixed enclosures that they get sufficient food. Natural food should be supplemented with extra green food, wheat and pellets; limited amounts of bread may also be given.
  • Good amounts of vegetation should be provided for nest building, with cover available for early-nesting species. Parent hatching and rearing is usual. Swans are able to defend their young against most predators, and their highly-aquatic lifestyle also makes cygnets less vulnerable. Unlimited green food should be available for the cygnets.
  • If hand-reared, cygnets should be kept in a brooder with a heat lamp (to give 92F in the first week), with sufficient room for the birds to choose their own comfort zone. Access to water for a swim is appreciated; this may be in an appropriately sized bowl initially (e.g. while the brooder is cleaned out). Starter pellets, chopped green food and for the first few days chopped hard-boiled egg may be given, and grit should be available. If weather permits the cygnets may be kept outside in a pen with a pond by two to three weeks old. It is important to ensure unlimited green food is always available and that the cygnets do start feeding initially (see: Stimulating Feeding of Downies (Waterfowl)), as there is a risk of Starveout.

(B7, B10.26.w2, B29, B30, B40, B94, B95, B97, B108, B128.w4, D1).

Species-specific information:

  • Tundra swans are hardy, their management is simple but a large area is preferred. A single bird may be kept in a mixed collection if the water area is large, but pairs are territorial and aggressive to other birds and humans, particularly when breeding, and should have a separate pen for breeding. May be fed wheat, pellets, green food, grass and bread: plenty of green food should be provided .
  • These swans are generally difficult to breed in captivity; the whistling swan Cygnus columbianus columbianus may be easier to breed than the Bewick's swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii. Eggs are laid on a large pile of vegetation, May to end of June (Bewick's swan) or late April to end of June (Whistling swan).
  • Cross-breeding with Cygnus olor - Mute swan, Cygnus buccinator - Trumpeter swan, Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan has been reported (B97).

(J23.13.w7, B29, B30, B40, B96, B97, B129, D1)

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: V 24.0mm (D8).

Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 48-58 inches 120-150cm Whistling swan Cygnus columbianus columbianus;

45-55 inches 115-140cm Bewick's swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii (B1,B3)

Adult weight General Cygnus columbianus columbianus 4.3-9.6kg

Cygnus columbianus bewickii 3.4-7.8kg (B1)

Male Cygnus columbianus columbianus 4.7-9.6 average 7.1kg (B3); mean 15.7 lbs. (B8)

Cygnus columbianus bewickii 4.9-7.8kg average 6.4kg (B3); mean 14.1 lbs. (B8)

Female Cygnus columbianus columbianus 4.3-8.2kg, average 6.2kg (B3); mean 13.7 lbs. (B8)

Cygnus columbianus bewickii 3.4-6.4kg average 5.0kg (B3); mean 12.5 lbs. (B8)

Newly-hatched weight Cygnus columbianus columbianus 180g (B9)

Cygnus columbianus bewickii 178g (B9)

Growth rate Cygnus columbianus columbianus 28.9 times hatching weight at 70 days (B9)

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Head

Adult Bill Male Whistling swan Cygnus columbianus columbianus: Black, with variable yellow spot in front of eye. Bill length less than 50mm from front of nostrils to tip of bill.

Bewick's swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii: Black with yellow above/behind nostrils.

Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Pinkish, with base turning white then yellow and black spreading from the tip.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Legs

Adult Male Black.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Dark grey.

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Plumage

Adult Male
Click Illustration for full-page view
White. Head more rounded than Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan.
Variations (If present)
Click Illustration for full-page view
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Juvenile Some grey feathers.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts pale silver-grey with vague darker patterning, underparts white.
Bill: Flesh-pink, with grey along the sides and at the tip.
Feet: Pale orange.

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Reproduction

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Nest placement and structure

On elevated ground, a large mound of vegetation.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 3-5 (B1); Cygnus columbianus columbianus 4-5 (B8).
Range 2-6 (B1) ; Cygnus columbianus columbianus 2-7 (B8), Cygnus columbianus bewickii 4-6 (B8)
Egg Description White or creamy (B3, B8). Cygnus columbianus columbianus Size: 110 x 73mm, weight: 280g. Cygnus columbianus bewickii Size: 103 x 67mm, weight: 260g (B3).

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Incubation

Cygnus columbianus columbianus 30-32 days, Cygnus columbianus bewickii 29-30 days (B1, B3).

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Hatching

Synchronous.

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Fledging

Cygnus columbianus columbianus 60-75days (B1), 60-70 days (B8); Cygnus columbianus bewickii 50-70days (40-45days reported) (B1, B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Pair formation at 3 to 4 years, but often only breed at 5-6 years.
Females Pair formation at 3 to 4 years, but often only breed at 5-6 years.

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Adults Head-dipping, upending, grazing, both day and night.
Newly-hatched Initially pecking and dabbling at surface, making use of food brought to surface by adults, later as adults.

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building By both parents.
Incubation By female, although male sometimes sits while she feeds.
Newly-hatched Both parents tend the cygnets.
Juveniles

Stay with parents through the first winter and sometimes rejoin in their second and third winters.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious in winter, territorial while breeding
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Strong permanent pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild

Cygnets may be taken by coyotes, Arctic foxes, golden eagles.

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Activity Patterns

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Circadian Feed in the day and at night.

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Natural Diet

Adults

Aquatic plants (leaves, stems, roots, rhizomes), and grasses, also grain and potatoes in winter.

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Newly-hatched

Insects important initially, later as adults.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Cygnus columbianus columbianus Tundra of arctic North America, wintering in western and coastal eastern USA

Cygnus columbianus bewickii from Kola Peninsula east throughout arctic north Siberia. Winters in western Europe, south of Caspian Sea and in eastern China, Korea, and Japan. Accidental Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Poland Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Israel, Iraq, Spain, Italy, Libya, Algeria. Rare vagrant Pakistan. (North east Asian population sometimes distinguished as Cygnus columbianus jankowskii)

Migratory, moving to lower latitudes for the winter.

Occasional and Accidental

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Introduced

--

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Habitat

Arctic tundra: shallow pools, lakes swampy bogs and sluggish stream and rivers. Winter habitats often coastal: marshes, grasslands, and agricultural fields.

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

Bewick's Swan - Cygnus columbianus bewickii / Cygnus bewickii
Jankowski's Swan - Cygnus columbianus jankowskii (race/subspecies)
Whistling Swan - Cygnus columbianus columbianus / Cygnus columbianus

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)

Stable and not globally threatened (B1).

General Legislation
  • This species is listed on Schedule 1 - Part I (Birds protected by special penalties: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds protected by special penalties at all times") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
CITES listing Cygnus columbianus jankowskii (race of Cygnus columbianus bewickii) listed CITES II (B1).
Red-data book listing Listing not yet included.
Threats Lead poisoning and hunting, also oil pollution, collisions e.g. with power lines, loss of habitat (B1, B8).

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Captive Populations

Reasonable numbers of Cygnus columbianus columbianus in American collections and breeding is increasing. Few Cygnus columbianus bewickii in collections and rarely bred except at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, UK (B8).

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Trade

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