Nature Diary: Whooper swans a-swimming

Ireland hosts up to 20% of species overwintering in Europe between October and April

Whooper swans wintering on the Vartry Lakes in Roundwood, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Whooper swans wintering on the Vartry Lakes in Roundwood, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The deaths of whooper swans following their collision into electricity wires in Donegal recently have drawn our attention to the fragility of what are often young birds on their first migratory journey from Iceland to overwinter in Ireland. 

Whooper swans are very large birds with pure white plumage and long necks. They are similar to the more common mute swans often found in parks and along canals. 

However, Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland points out that while mute swans are present in Ireland all year round and can be tame around humans, whopper swans are much shier and tend to avoid people.

Sloping beaks

The distinguishing feature between the two species is that whooper swans have smooth, sloping beaks, which are yellow and black, while mute swans have orange and black beaks with a very prominent black “knob” or bump at the base.

Ireland hosts up to 20 per cent of the population of whooper swans overwintering in Europe between October and April. They can be seen on coastal inlets, river estuaries and lakes, mainly in the northwest.

See also birdwatchireland.ie 

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