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Bewick’s/Jankowski’s Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii or Olor columbianus bewickii)


Europe and Asia. Alternative name: Tundra Swan (with Whistling Swan).

Description: Smaller than other northern swans, with a shorter body and shorter bill than the closely related Whistling swan. Typically has yellow only at the sides of the bill, feet and legs black, eye dark brown. Juvenile: Overall greyish-brown. Bill is pink, whiter towards the base, tip and cutting edge black. Retains this plumage well into first spring and although attains adult coloration by second winter, most birds can still be aged by presence of greyish brown on head and neck until at least into first half of second winter. Bewick’s swan is now considered to be merely a race of Whistling Swan. No other races now recognized, although eastern population of Bewick’s (Lena delta eastwards) formerly separated as race jankowskii averages rather larger and has longer deeper bill which tends to show more extensive black than on western birds.

Field Identification:

Length 115-140cm (45-55 in).

Males usually large than females.

In Flight: Usual swan shape, but is smaller and stockier, with shorter neck and body. It has a rather quick wing action. More agile at take-off and landing than Whooper dropping on to water at steeper angle and rising with little foot-pattering.

Voice: Calls are a higher pitch and more yelping. Usual flight call faster and more yelping, but softer and less bugling than Whooper, a low ‘hoo-hoo-hoo’.

Habits: Highly gregarious outside breeding season. Arrives on breeding ground from mid May to early June, selecting territory in coastal tundra of Arctic Siberia. Nest sites on dry hummocks in open tundra, by rivers and estuaries, often in well-scattered colonies. Large flocks form on winter grounds, feeding in shallow water or by grazing in low-lying fields. They are very noisy in winter, flock keeping up constant low babbling when on water and indulging in greeting displays.

Habitat: This swan likes to breed in low-lying open grassy or swampy tundra with scattered pools, lakes and rivers.

Population: Despite being protected throughout nearly the whole of its range, small numbers are regularly shot. Western populations regularly counted European winter quarters, estimated at 16,000 birds but numbers vary according to breeding success.

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